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Unequal treatment is still an issue in Paonia

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Dear Editor:

I would like to share my opinion on a recent episode in the history of the Paonia Town Council. Five members of the Town of Paonia's upper management recently joined in a complaint against a trustee. They claimed slander on three counts: 1) A remark about the "town taxi" service when the manager was reportedly being chauffeured on personal business by the town clerk; 2) referring to the building inspector as "compromised"; and 3) accusing the public works director of stealing fuel while the finance officer covered it up.

Their leader, the manager, read the complaint aloud, in wailing tones, with quavering voice and great anguish. They vowed to sue if the board didn't punish the trustee. A committee investigated. Their official finding: not guilty on all counts ...

1) The clerk did in fact leave her post to chauffeur the manager on personal business.

2) A diplomatic reference to the building inspector as "compromised" was a private communication with the town attorney. It should never have been disclosed.

3) The trustee did not accuse anyone of stealing fuel. She had pointed out that with no system to track inventory, it was impossible to know where the town's fuel supply actually goes.

This left the board with a problem -- how to deal with the staff and their complaint? As politicians will do, they decided it was easiest to blame the trustee for something, anything, despite being found not guilty, thereby saving face for the staff and sweeping the whole thing under the rug. The mayor cut the trustee short and refused to hear anyone waiting to speak in her defense. He called for a vote to shame her with a "warning" for causing such a large expenditure of town time and money. Apparently the office was in an uproar for months and an attorney had been hired to find the leak who flagged the problem with inventory control. (There is still no system to track where the town's fuel goes.)

I left that meeting feeling that I had witnessed an attack designed to bully an honest trustee into silence, that it was harassment, an official violation of an innocent person. I recently resigned the Paonia Town Council over their refusal to apply rules of conduct equitably to all members. It is my opinion that unequal treatment is a big problem across the board in Paonia and it will not change under the current leadership.

Bill Brunner

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