Aztec city attorney resigns after comment becomes public
Larry Thrower served city for more than 12 years
FARMINGTON — The Aztec city attorney has resigned after comments he made to another city official during a Pride Month proclamation were heard on a live video stream.
Larry Thrower made the comment to Aztec City Commissioner Austin Randall while Mayor Victor Snover was issuing the proclamation. A live microphone apparently picked it up.
Snover and Commissioners Rosalyn Fry and Mark Lewis posed for a photo with representatives of the local LGBTQ community while presenting the proclamation during the June 12 City Commission meeting. Thrower leaned over to Randall, who had not joined in the presentation, and asked, “Does this feel a little queer?"
The comment was audible on the live stream video that can be viewed on the city’s YouTube channel.
Interim city manager Steve Mueller said Thrower gave his 30-day resignation notice last week, and a request for proposals already has been issued to find a new city attorney.
When reached by phone by The Daily Times, Thrower said he disagreed with the mayor and the new commissioners about how to approach the topic of Pride Month. Snover, Fry and Lewis were elected to the City Commission in March.
Thrower said he had personal moral views about how to approach Pride Month, which celebrates the LGBTQ community. He emphasized that he was not saying his views are right and that the views of Snover, Fry and Lewis are wrong. Instead, Thrower said they are his personal moral views.
The proclamation apparently divided the Aztec City Commission. Proclamations are not voted on, but three members of the commission presented it to the LGBTQ representatives while two of them remained seated.
"Simply put, I do not agree with supporting a gay pride month proclamation as it goes against my personal beliefs and values," Randall said in an email statement to The Daily Times. "Same as a regular vote, when the majority of the Commissioners support something, they have the authority to approve or move forward with a proclamation."
Randall said he believes he was representing his constituents when he did not participate in the presentation of the Pride Month proclamation. Commissioner Sherri Sipe also remained seated while the others had their picture taken with the representatives of the LGBTQ community.
"In being elected officials, we represent the entire community of Aztec, and it is understood that there is a mixed demographic of beliefs and values within an entire City," Randall said in his statement. "However, that does not mean we have to support or agree with every single set of those different values or beliefs. I strongly feel that I did appropriately represent a large portion of Citizens in not supporting the Pride proclamation."
Mayor discusses importance of Pride Month proclamation
Snover said the possibility of doing a Pride Month proclamation was brought to him by Commissioner Lewis. He said he recognized that there are differences of opinions on issues like Pride Month, but he felt it was important to recognize the residents of Aztec who identify as LGBTQ.
He highlighted the challenges that the LGBTQ community has faced and still faces as a reason why the proclamation was important.
"I would love for there to be a day when we don't have to do these proclamations," Snover said.
Farmington mayor declares Unity in Diversity Month
While Aztec was the only local government entity to issue a Pride Month proclamation, Farmington’s Mayor Nate Duckett declared Unity in Diversity Month.
The proclamation recognizes that Farmington is a “culturally, ethnically and socially diverse city” and that many groups of people have faced discrimination and currently face discrimination. The proclamation states that those groups have designated months recognized in the United States to bring attention to their history, struggles and accomplishments.
The proclamation further states that June is recognized as LGBTQ pride month and that Farmington has provided support to LGBTQ programs. It states discrimination and prejudice still exist and have lasting negative impacts on mental health, which can impact families, schools and the city as a whole.
When reached by phone by The Daily Times, Duckett said he likes to make broad, inclusive proclamations. He said he will officially present the proclamation during Tuesday's council meeting.
Duckett said he worked hard on drafting the Unity in Diversity Month proclamation, which gave him an opportunity to speak from his heart. He said Farmington is a diverse community and that there are many groups within the city that have a history of being marginalized.
“We shouldn’t shy away from that,” he said. “We need to accept those things.”
Thrower served as city attorney for more than a dozen years
Thrower has served as the Aztec city attorney for nearly 13 years. He was awarded a new contract this year. The contract is for four years, but requires that it be renewed every year.
Thrower said he was likely going to retire at the end of the year rather than renewing his contract. He said his differences with the newly elected city officials prompted the early resignation.
“It became apparent that we had some differences that would have made it difficult going forward,” Thrower said.
Snover agreed with Thrower's comment that those differences could have made it challenging going forward. He said after meetings last week Thrower offered "basically to give us a fresh start."
"We think it's best for everyone involved," Snover said.
He said Thrower has been a solid city attorney, and he appreciates the years of service Thrower has given to the city.
In addition to providing the City Commission and city staff with legal advice and opinions, Thrower prosecuted cases in municipal court on behalf of the city of Aztec. He said he prosecuted hundreds of cases in which the defendant had been accused of driving while intoxicated. Thrower said he believes that effort helped reduce the number of people driving while intoxicated and improved public safety.
Thrower said the legal services he provided the city were a good match for what the city needed.
He said he would advise the future city attorney to develop mutual trust with city officials, including the various department heads.
Randall said it is unfortunate that Thrower's service to the city ended the way it did.
"I feel he has done a great job for the City during his tenure and I have never questioned his ability to represent the City in his position," Randall said in his statement. "He did make a comment in poor taste that he knows he shouldn’t have, and I know he is very sorry for it."
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.