PALOUSE — The Palouse City Council appointed Tim Sievers, mayor pro tempore and city councilor, to the city’s top leadership position Tuesday evening after a discussion over the urgency of the matter.
The former mayor of Palouse, Chris Cook, resigned from the position in late September with short notice. Sievers had been operating in the role during Cook’s absence, and was sworn in as the city’s mayor shortly after the council voted to appoint him.
At the meeting, council members deliberated whether to appoint Sievers or allow interested members of the community to apply for the remainder of Cook’s term, which ends in 2024. Councilor Katie Cooper was the only member to vote against Sievers’ appointment.
“My concern is transparency,” Cooper said. “I appreciate that we need to move quickly so we can get a city administrator hired, but I also do wonder if it’d be good to put out a call.”
Cooper also asked whether the city’s lawyer was consulted on the legality of the process. Sievers said he spoke with the lawyer earlier and “whatever the city wants to do, it can do.”
The news of Cook’s departure came shortly after City Administrator Brad Coughenour announced his resignation “based on family needs,” according to council minutes from Sept. 16. Coughenour served in the role since May.
In a letter to the Palouse community, Sievers said a new city administrator can only be appointed by the mayor, per Palouse Municipal Code.
“I believe time is of the essence,” councilor Bill Slinkard said. “We need a city administrator before we can proceed with much of anything, and we need a mayor before we can hire a city administrator.”
Slinkard initially recommended Siever fill the role, saying he has the most experience, and later started a motion to vote. The other councilors, including Mary Welcome, Jim Fielder, Libby Aiken and John Snyder, all expressed support for Sievers’ appointment.
According to Welcome, the city is in critical need of a city administrator to help create and pass next year’s budget. A preliminary budget hearing is scheduled for Nov. 9.
“Without a city administrator, it’s hard to get that going,” Welcome said. “And in some ways it makes me feel more comfortable to appoint someone who was already elected for a leadership position in our community.”
Earlier in the meeting during a public comment period, Palouse resident Brad Pearce expressed discontent with the proceedings. Pearce said the former mayor “ran away from his job.”
“Now we’re dealing with someone widely considered to be his crony,” he added.
Pearce also accused the council of deliberately changing meeting locations and not informing the public. However, notices of the move to the Community Center on East Main Street were posted on the doors of city hall, and the new location was included in the meeting agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
At the next meeting, the council will appoint a new mayor pro tempore. The open council position left by Sievers will be filled after a candidate is chosen in the November election. His term was already set to expire Dec. 31.
“I’ve had more citizen contact in the last two weeks than I’ve probably seen in my whole time in office,” Sievers said. “It was refreshing and appreciated to get feedback and hear from the constituents.”
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