Mayor Pro-Tem Kathy Clark said, “The number-one intent of this resolution is it allows the city to access state and federal funding.”
The second most important reason for passing the resolution, said Clark, is to give a person authority to act. “Just like a flood, we don’t have 24 hours to call an emergency meeting. We need someone to make decisions.”
Authority to make emergency decisions now lies with City Manager Morris Madrid.
The city changed the resolution made public days earlier. It originally said the “Mayor,” Sandra Whitehead, and “City Manager” would make emergency decisions, now it says “City Manager.” No explanation was given for the change during the meeting.
The resolution was also changed to state that if Madrid becomes “unavailable,” the mayor will call a “special meeting to appoint a temporary emergency replacement.”
Evidently the mayor will be Whitehead until April 8, when the three newly-elected and two remaining board members meet for the first time.
Clark clarified the new board is in place officially on April 1, in compliance with a new elections’ law.
Randall Aragon, Amanda Forrister and Brendan Tolley replace Clark, Rolf Hechler and George Szigeti. Sandra Whitehead and Paul Baca have two more years on their four-year terms.
It was not stated if the board will meet telephonically or not, but it is likely, since Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered March 23 that no more than 5 people meet at a time.
It was not made part of the resolution, but during discussion, Clark said Madrid “should give regular updates to the City Commission” in writing and those updates should not only go to the City Commission members, but to the two local press outlets, the Sierra County Sentinel and the Sierra County Sun.
The resolution gives Madrid the authority to act within the City’s “Continuity of Operations Plan” or COOP. Asked for a copy of the COOP, Clark said it was an “internal document,” and Madrid said “it hasn’t been drafted yet.”
Madrid said he “already has authority in emergencies,” but the resolution more clearly delineates that authority. “If I spend money on (indistinct), then you should fire me.”
The resolution states Madrid is to act “consistent with the recommendations of the Emergency Management Team.” Asked who is on the team, Madrid said “city department heads and supervisors.” Since Madrid can fire them at will, it is unlikely they will act as a check on his decisions or spending.
The City Manager can sign joint powers agreements, memorandums of understanding, service agreements and contracts under the emergency resolution.
The City Finance Director Carol Kirkpatrick is authorized to create a fund up to $250,000, “to address the health emergency, including overtime, contract labor, computers, smart phones, electronic equipment and telecommunications services, etc. as may be necessary for remote and work at home arrangements, as outlined in the COOP, such as preventative and safety equipment and supplies as antiseptic, masks, gloves, etc., and such emergency equipment or provisions as may be needed to assist staff, the public and the indigent in a time of shortage or mandated isolation, including food, water, medicine, etc.”
Another reference is made to the COOP, which evidently Madrid can define and draft post-resolution: “That the City Commission authorizes such other emergency measures as outlined in the town’s Pandemic COOP, Action Plan, Resolution 32 19/20 (the health emergency resolution) or by order, direction or advertisement of the federal or state government, or such interagency mutual aid emergency cooperation agreements as the FEMA and DHA approved the City of Truth or Consequences All Hazard Plan, to which the city is a signatory.”
The Sierra County Sun has an Inspection of Public Records Act request in for the COOP. IPRAs take about two weeks to fulfill, but since Madrid has not drafted it yet, it may take longer.
The last proviso in the resolution constrains Madrid’s power. It states the emergency resolution will expire within 90 days, “unless it is terminated earlier by the City Commission.”