What began as a discussion about communication has turned into a debate over the rights and privileges of elected officials, the extent of Mayor Tommy Roberts' powers and how officials should represent their constituents.
City Council will vote Tuesday evening whether to approve a resolution establishing an email policy. The resolution will require all councilmembers and the mayor to have a city email account and a city computer, which would be provided on request, among other stipulations.
"This resolution is about extending to city council an opportunity to exercise its legislative authority to establish policy regarding the way we communicate with one another, with our employees and with our constituents," Roberts said in a phone interview on Friday. "It's simple and straightforward."
An evaluation of the mayor's rights and privileges should be released by the city's legal department within 10 days, he said.
But for Roberts, the issues surrounding communication and those surrounding the extent of his powers remain separate.
"It seems to me that this discussion ought to be broadened," Roberts said at last week's work session. "We need to think about how we as a council expect (communication) to occur. What should constituents expect?"
Fischer, however, says she has heard no complaints from her constituents, and has taken the issue to the state attorney general's office.
"I don't particularly choose to respond to my constituents via email," she said last week. "I respond in person.
According to an informal Facebook survey conducted by The Daily Times, the public seems split on the issue.
Some respondents said that Fischer is slowing down Farmington's growth and that she needs to embrace modernity.
"I am very proud to call Farmington home, but I have watched the city council over the years, and one person has been a thorn in the side of the city's growth, and that is Mary Fischer," said Cheryl E. Sitton, a 28-year resident, in an email comment. "If you can't do your job as an elected official by being aware of how our world has progressed, and progressing with it, maybe we don't need you on our council anymore."
Others said Fischer has a strong public presence and that Roberts had no right to set up the email address because the city has a weak mayor, strong council system of government.
For Fischer the issue is at once a waste of time and an indication of dysfunction in Farmington's leadership.
"I think this is much ado about nothing," she said. "I think this is a personal issue. I would feel much more comfortable if the mayor addressed the real issues affecting our community. This (resolution) is nonsense."
The city is facing numerous, more pressing issues, she said, listing economic depression, crumbling infrastructure, alleged issues with the fire and police departments and others.
In addition, Fischer said she considers the email account and the computer provided to her a misappropriation of taxpayer-funded equipment, and that the entire situation is a matter of the mayor attempting to flex political muscle.
"If Tommy wants to flex some muscle I would really prefer that he go to a gym," she said. "Perhaps Council could dictate that to him."
But for Fischer, the issue is more insidious than a political struggle.
"While I don't approve of (all his decisions), I certainly respect separation of powers," she said. "What I find chilling is if he thinks he can dictate to me how I do my job, is the next step to dictate how I vote? I've missed no more than 10 meetings in 25 years. (The issue) is certainly not that I'm unavailable. I make a point of being available in person. It seems like no matter what I do, this is personal, not professional."
Greg Yee may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 564-4606. Follow him on Twitter @GYeeDT