It’s official

Michelle Pattison (left) was appointed to the board and sworn in on Nov. 12, 2019 by Corinne Ferguson, then interim town administrator. Pattison was re-elected in April 2020 and resigned her position on Nov. 16, 2021.

The town of Paonia felt another shock wave Tuesday night as Trustee Michelle Pattison resigned during a special meeting to discuss the draft 2022 budget.

At the beginning of the Nov. 16 meeting, Pattison made a motion to amend the agenda to allow for announcements. Once the agenda was modified, she read the following statement.

“My announcement is that I am resigning from the board. I no longer feel I can serve the community effectively in this role,” Pattison began. “As board members we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the town’s resources in order to provide high quality, reliable and equitable services to our community.”

In recent weeks Pattison registered her frustrations with the budgeting process as well as the performance of the town’s administrator. During one budget discussion, she made it clear that she would not approve of the draft budget prepared by Cindy Jones, town finance officer.

“I don’t believe this board is meeting our responsibilities,” said Pattison as the board listened in silence.

“My hope is that stepping down will give someone else the opportunity to step up. Thanks to the voters of Paonia for giving me the opportunity to serve and to the trustees and staff for the work that you do. Thanks most of all to every person who gives of their time to participate in, report on or just be aware of what is happening in town government,” Pattison continued showing some emotion.

“When our community members are unhappy with what is happening here, that isn’t a problem, that’s a symptom. We will never get to the root of a problem if we dismiss every critical comment as a personal attack,” Pattison told the board. “I have learned so much because of people who understand what I don’t and have the courage to call me out, to call all of us out when we can do better. So, thank you, especially to the public.”

As she packed up her things to leave the room, Mayor Mary Bachran asked, “You’re resigning effective immediately?”

“Effectively immediately,” replied Pattison as she left the room.

“I am so sorry to see you go. I am very sorry,” said Bachran, stunned by the sudden resignation.

A number of community members, including Pattison’s husband Thomas Markle left the chamber as well.

Pattison’s sudden departure comes on the heels of the unexpected resignation of Trustee William “Bill” Bear during the Nov. 9 meeting. Bachran read a prepared statement on behalf of Bear, in part saying that he was “leaving for reasons beyond his control.”

There was some question as to whether the special meeting could continue with the departure of Pattison. Board members present were Mick Johnson, Dave Knutson and Tamie Meck. Bachran questioned if they had a quorum.

Town Administrator Corinne Ferguson stated that with two open seats and the expectation that Trustee Karen Budinger would be arriving soon that the meeting could continue.

Mayor Bachran asked for a recess while they sought clarification from the town attorney. Once Budinger arrived the meeting resumed. According to information obtained from the town attorney a “quorum is based on the number of people who are currently sitting on the board and not on the number of seats available.”

Bachran said she expects to announce both open seats at the next board meeting and solicit letters of interest. Once the letters have been reviewed the board will appoint two new members to fill the vacancies until the April municipal election.

“The last time we did this was when Michelle (Pattison) went on the board in late 2019,” Bachran said, adding the new appointees would have the opportunity to test out the position.

“It gives them a couple of months to see how it works and if they have the time to do it, is it going to be too onerous, it just gives them a chance to give it a shot,” she said.

In a follow-up email Pattison expressed her desire to see the town and board move forward following her departure.

“I don’t think an interview about my resignation would support that,” she said, adding, “I’d be happy to speak with any member of the community one-on-one about my decision.”

The depleted town board will have plenty to discuss in its upcoming regular meeting scheduled for Nov. 23 including a public hearing on the proposed 2022 budget, replacing two board members and hopefully an update on the hiring of a new chief of police.

Lisa Young is a staff writer for the Delta County Independent.

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