Temps rise at special pool meeting

At special council meeting to hire pool manager, tempers flare among council members

Fiery back and forth took place as the Saratoga Town Council held a special meeting to hire a new pool manager on June 26.

Emery Penner, Director of Public Works, began the meeting by presenting the hiring recommendations from the interview board formed by Mayor Chuck Davis for the pool manager position. The board interviewed two candidates for the pool manager position. They recommended the council hire Sandy Beffa as the pool manager.

Councilwoman Kathy Beck questioned whether Beffa was lifeguard certified.

“She isn’t at this point, but she has been in the past,” Penner said. “If we continue with her in the future that’s something she could get redone.”

Beck then asked if Beffa lived in Saratoga. Penner said she lives in Saratoga seasonally. Beck also asked if Beffa would be able to work the entire season. Penner said she would be leaving the first week of August.

“I know this is your recommendation but then what happens … the beginning of August, because we have another six weeks remaining in the season,” Beck asked.

“We’d have only a week until school starts, so we’re going to lose most of our staff anyways,” Penner said.

The first day of school for students in Carbon County School District No. 2 is August 19.

Beck said they “worked around” the staffing issue in 2023 and were able to keep the pool open until September.

Councilman Mike Cooley put his support behind Beffa, saying she’ll “have stuff pretty well lined out when she does leave. I think it will run smoothly.”

Cooley additionally said that lifeguard certification is not required in order to be a pool manager. “But I would assure you that if someone was drowning she would jump in,” he said.

“If [lifeguard certification opens up] yes she’ll get certified, but right now you can’t find anybody who’s doing it,” Davis said.

Conversation continued to revolve around the process of certification and the issues arising from being uncertified.

“If she’s not certified we’re still in the same boat right now, because we’re still short lifeguards,” Beck said. “Ideally we’d hire someone who’s lifeguard certified who can step in.”

Penner said that is an issue arising from a lack of lifeguards, not a pool manager being uncertified.

Members of the public who participate in water aerobics raised concerns over the pool potentially closing at the end of July.

“We want to keep the pool open as long as possible. It’s finding people to always do the job,” Davis said.

Discussion then turned to former pool manager Whisper Bunch. Bunch worked for the Town of Saratoga in 2023 before resigning from her position.

“There is an individual in this town who checks all the boxes,” Valerie Larsheid, member of the public and water aerobics instructor said. “She’s been overlooked and I don’t know why and it’s none of my business, but I feel that whatever is holding people back from this particular person, unless it is a felony … that person should be given a second chance.”

Beck said she tried to advocate for Bunch but “the other council members refused to interview her.”

“Not only are we hiring somebody who can’t step in … we’ve gone through a lot of drama for no reason other than, in my opinion, bias from my council members against this person. And that’s not right,” Beck said.

“That’s not true,” Cooley said. “I know both of these individuals and I like both of them.”

Beck said Bunch was not given the chance to interview and the other council members could not put aside “something they heard.”

“You need to be careful here, you’re walking on thin ice,” Davis said to Beck.

“This is not what happened in executive session, this happened over emails and text,” Beck said.

It should be noted, communications with a quorum of council members regarding town matters outside of a meeting or executive session is prohibited by the Wyoming Open Meeting laws.

Wyoming state statute 16-4-403(d) reads “No meeting shall be conducted by electronic means or any other form of communication that does not permit the public to hear, read or otherwise discern meeting discussion contemporaneously. Communications outside a meeting, including, but not limited to, sequential communications among members of an agency, shall not be used to circumvent the purpose of this act.”

“It was refused via text to interview her, that was not an executive session,” Beck said. “Let’s be honest, shall we?”

“We’re not supposed to discuss this out of executive session, because it’s personnel fields,” Councilmember Jerry Fluty said. “You’re trying to drag this up and make us look bad because we can’t discuss what really happened.”

Beck and Fluty then argued back and forth over Bunch’s alleged actions.

“As councilmembers we are supposed to represent our community,” Beck said. “We don’t make decisions based on what we think is right for the town, we reflect what townspeople have come and told us. We’ve had dozens of people speak on this person's behalf. So you’re saying your decision and your opinion is more important than your community’s.”

Fluty said he has heard both positive and negative things in regards to Bunch.

“The public is not aware of everything we are aware of. You call it hearsay, I don’t call everything hearsay,” Davis said.

“I call it hearsay unless it can be proven,” Beck said.

Davis said he “has not made up his mind on hearsay.”

Ultimately, Beffa was hired as pool manager at $19 an hour. The council also hired Cindy Carnes as a lifeguard. Additionally, Beck discussed the potentiality of hiring some lifeguards from Rawlins. No decision was made, but Davis asked Beck to look into the proposal.

A regular Saratoga Town Council meeting will have taken place on July 2.

The next regular Saratoga Town Council meeting will be on July 16 at six p.m. at the Saratoga Town Hall.

 

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