Cole & David: Censure of Conner about what’s best for community (opinion)
Tribune guest Columnists
Councilwoman JoAnn Conner was censured Monday, Oct. 19, at a special city council meeting for behavior. Read the story here. The Tribune asked several relevant parties to write guest opinion columns about the issue. All perspectives expressed are unique to the authors and are not the opinions of Tahoe Daily Tribune. The intent of publishing all columns on the same day is to give our readers an opportunity to hear directly from those involved to better understand the complexity of this issue. Letters to the editor are welcome in response to these columns. Email letters to email@example.com.
Read Conner’s guest column here.
Read John Cefalu’s guest column here.
Read Nancy Kerry’s guest column here.
Recently the editorial staff at the Tahoe Daily Tribune informed us that Ms. Conner was being given an opportunity to present her “side of the story” concerning the recent actions the city council has taken regarding her behavior.
After careful consideration, we’ve chosen to speak up to let our community know this is not about sides to a story. It is not a political debate or about personal opinions or agendas. It is about the right of every employee, every partner agency and every member of our community to be free from harassment and bullying. It is about the expectation that your city leaders will protect our employees, present ourselves to our community in a respectful, professional manner and work collaboratively with our partners.
Good government thrives on diverse opinions, styles and voices. However, a culture of fear and intimidation shuts down access to your leaders. It eliminates debate and silences ideas.
JoAnn Conner has created a culture of fear and intimidation. Her method is to criticize, belittle and lie about facts. She churns up controversy in an effort to turn community members against their city government for her personal benefit.
Concerns about Ms. Conner’s behavior began soon after her election and have been brought forward from all sectors of the community. We have attempted to address these concerns both individually and collectively. In February, the city council held a facilitated retreat that included a session where all five council members addressed JoAnn’s conduct. Over the ensuing months little, if any, change has been seen.
Ms. Conner’s actions reached a critical level on Sept. 8 when we, as the mayor and mayor pro tem, were informed that at least six individual employees had sought protection and advice from our city attorney arising out of their interactions with Ms. Conner.
The city subsequently took action. Our city manager notified all employees that they were no longer allowed to interact with JoAnn directly. The city council upheld her decision, hoping it would give JoAnn pause and recognize the problem.
Unfortunately, the opposite happened. Ms. Conner soon began a barrage of outright lies and attacks on the city manager and the council in social media and the press. It has risen to the point where the city council took an action unprecedented in the city’s 50-year history. It adopted a resolution to publicly censure Ms. Conner. Censure is a formal disapproval of her conduct. It does not curtail her rights to free speech or limit her capacity as an elected official.
This situation is no longer about Ms. Conner’s behavior; it is about doing what is best for our city and our community. It is our responsibility not only to stand up for what is right for our employees and our partners, but also to protect the taxpayers from possible litigation arising out of her conduct.
The really sad part of this whole situation is that even though the complaints about Ms. Conner have been so numerous, and from so many varied sources, she has yet to acknowledge any misconduct. If someone can’t recognize a problem, there is little hope for change.
We have taken every action we can to lessen the impact of her conduct on our city’s operations. We have given Ms. Conner numerous opportunities to take responsibility and address her behavior, to no avail. Her conduct remains abusive and disruptive.
Therefore, at our next regular city council meeting, we will be asking our fellow council members to agendize the removal of JoAnn Conner from any and all committees and commissions where she acts as a city representative. We sincerely hope Ms. Conner takes time to reflect on her past behavior and takes the necessary steps to repair the damage done.
Hal Cole is South Lake Tahoe’s mayor and Wendy David is mayor pro tem.
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