Someone asked me Tuesday if I'd be writing a "told-you-so" type of column regarding the Farmington city manager getting fired.

No.

I'm not happy today for Mike Miller, because I'm never happy when someone loses their job, let alone a job proven difficult to keep.

No.

Because I don't think firing Mike Miller as city manager is enough. Further, it wasn't Mike Miller who hired Mike Miller.

No.

Mayor Bill Standley and Councilman Dan Darnell apparently still don't get it, and word has it that Councilman George Sharpe only cast his swing vote because he was tired of the mess he himself kept having to hear regarding poor city administration. But hey, kudos to George, Mary Fischer and Jason Sandel for finally facing the issue and voting for change.

No.

Because I'm just a newspaper editor whose job it is to produce a newspaper that accurately reflects the image of our community, and right now, I'm obviously still not doing a good enough job myself.

Why else would City Hall still not see and understand what's really happening here?

***

Anyone living in Farmington for the past year should know by now that this newspaper remains embroiled in an expensive lawsuit with the city over access to the applications for the same city manager pool of candidates from which Miller was hired.

The newspaper believes the documents clearly are defined as public domain as provided by state law, and that the city is in violation of the law by fighting to keep its secrets.


Advertisement

One judge already has agreed, but the city chose to keep fighting and appeal.

We feel it's one thing for a business or job-seeker in the private sector to be discreet, which is more easy to understand. It's totally another for such closed-door maneuvering when it involves millions of dollars in public money, public wellbeing and certainly public power.

The city manager rules.

That's not my kids' way of saying he rocks, as in he's a cool dude.

It's a matter-of-fact way of making it clear that whoever is city manager, that person pulls all the strings and then answers only to an elected city council that must gather a majority of votes before dealing with any mandates thrust upon it by the city manager.

So, in short, the city manager is king. Or queen, if the good old boys ever so decide.

That means if he tells the police chief what must happen with how the cop shop is managed, in theory, it must happen.

It means he can tell the water-and-sewer director where to flush, and what.

It means he can tell the librarian when she can or will throw a dance in the library lobby during reading hours.

It means if he says the back door to a pool hall gets snow removed first and all the soccer, baseball and softball fields can wait, it's no-play ball!

It means if he tells the animal shelter director to teach all dogs in the pound to fetch, she becomes a master fetcher.

It means if he tells the fire department to pose for no more calendars, he himself can monopolize what the women in the office refer to as the hottie-calendar.

Folks, the city manager rules.

That is why you should care more about how this person is hired.

Or fired.

***

All indications were that Miller, who only took over the job months ago, was stirring the pot, to say the least.

Council members complained that people he governed were unhappy and that the council members did not get all the information they should before making decisions or learning of problems, and that Miller was responsible.

Gee, that kind of sounds like the argument we were making as taxpayers wanting the same thing from our city council before they hired this city manager. We had to sue to try and get what we felt we needed to know.

Miller just gets fired.

But that leaves us with a city council trying to figure out what move to make next to get this silly merry-go-round of wasteful spending and staff morale cliffhangers to end.

Everyone knows we have put wings on too many thousands of dollars to remodel an airport restaurant that sits with a big bar and a roomful of empty chairs.

There are cost overruns with park construction, new jobs created topping the $60,000 salary mark that not everyone understands, and of course little things like risking more than $100,000 on the city's legal case with the newspaper if the city loses its right to keep secrets. The irony is, the city will lose and risk much more if it does win such a fight for closed-door decision-making.

So, obviously, all of this is my fault.

I'm sorry, Mike the fired city manager.

I'm sorry, taxpayer, city council and members of the city's hard-working staff.

If I were a better editor, no doubt City Hall would understand that while we like and appreciate the folks we elect, and we enjoy and respect them for their many fine personal traits as people, the council body still isn't getting the whole message: We want better accountability.

They say if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

How loud do you have to yell when it's broke?

Given this firing, perhaps somebody finally heard something, but was it a whisper or a clasp of voter thunder?

***

"I have never seen a level of incompetence as I'm seeing right now," Councilwoman Mary Fischer said of the city during her pre-election interview with our editorial board. "I know how it's supposed to operate, and I know how it's not operating right now."

Asked on Sweetheart Day, or Feb. 14, if she would fire Miller if given the choice, she quipped, "Indeed. I would've fired him yesterday," meaning anytime of late.

"Life in the city is not good right now," she said.

Councilman Dan Darnell, who also faced re-election and won, said, "I struggled with whether to run or not to, but we've still got some things we need to do."

Well, do you five in office hear that loud knock on the door?

It's not just opportunity to create positive change and do things right this time, but it's also the knock of thousands of taxpayers and residents trying to get inside.

You see, City Hall is our house, too.

And we want in.

So, Mr. Mayor, as you consider who you want next for this important position, and city council, as you decide whether to confirm his choice, please accept this humble cry for open government and democracy at its best.

Start by making me a better editor and seeing the image many residents have of this city with our wasteful spending and spinning wheels. It's throwing mud on your many good accomplishments.

Then, allowing us to look over your shoulder on this hire might be a good gesture.

It's harder for us to complain if we all have the chance to ask questions when it still matters.

And boy, does it matter now.

Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, N.M. 87401; or at tturner@

daily-times.com.