Saline City Councillor Lee Bourgoin drew fire from Mayor Brian Marl and Councillor Dean Girbach at Monday's meeting.
Bourgoin, who left his position as the city's director of finance in a shroud of secrecy in 2012, was elected to council in an uncontested election that same year. He has irked some council members with long-winded, repetitive and roundabout discussions that are punctuated by sometimes inflammatory language about the way his council colleagues and city staff conduct the city's business.
Bourgoin irked the Mayor with a Nov. 17 email he sent to city council members and staff, in which he alleges that city staff has held “back-room discussions” about an August 2014 ballot issue to raise taxes. The letter was in response to a letter Councillor Girbach had sent regarding discussions held at this weekend's council retreat and planning session.
“In a bizarre response to an email that Mr. Girbach sent out, you say some nonsense about staff having backroom discussions and putting a proposal on the August 2014 ballot for a street millage, which could not be further from the truth. Nothing to that extent was articulated Saturday at our retreat or at any other time,” Marl said. “It was simply an idea that was thrown out because we have to keep every option on the table as we continue to explore ways to fund capital projects.”
Marl took issue with Bourgoin's choice of words. He said it was appropriate for anyone on council to disagree with decisions and solutions.
“That's fair game. But when you impugn integrity or motives, that's where I have to draw the line,” Marl said.
Bourgoin once again brought up the issue of using general fund money to pay for TIFA district projects. Bourgoin has said the practice represents a “sea change” in the way the city does business, and said it adds more burden on residential taxpayers. This, too, drew the ire of the Mayor.
“I consider myself a very patient person, but I become annoyed when I constantly have to repeat myself. This issue has now been brought up for the third time. Every time, the response has been that the LDFA/TIFA task force will take a look at this and make a recommendation to city council and to the economic development boards,” Marl said.
Later in the meeting, Bourgoin drew criticism from a frustrated Councillor Girbach. Bourgoin had made a late request to add a sewer fund discussion to the agenda. Bourgoin had previously asked Treasurer Mickie Jo Bennett to investigate the origins of a sewer fund reserve amount that had been in place since the 1960s. After Bourgoin and Bennett discussed the finding of what Bourgoin called a “cold case” mystery, Girbach said he was tired of Bourgoin wasting city staff's time on “goose chases.”
“Why did we spend time looking at an issue that is 45 years old, wasting staff's time when we've cut and continue to cut. I am fed up with having to have all these issues brought back and back, and yet the added value of these (issues) is not there,” Girbach said. “I want to see that we don't continue to have these kinds of goose chases called a cold case in the future.”
Girbach said he believed City Manager Todd Campbell had the authority to make sure staff's time isn't wasted on “cold cases” like the ones Bourgoin had staff working on.
After a brief discussion with Campbell, Marl announced that when council members make extraordinary demands of staff, council be notified for approval.