Ontario’s new mayor wrangles over committee appointments

Ontario mayor Riley Hill boosted the tension during a city council work session last week as he pushed to get his choices onto the city budget committee. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

ONTARIO – Within two hours of assuming his new office, Ontario Mayor Riley Hill got into his first political fight.

It was with his city councilors.

When Hill took the oath of office as Ontario’s new mayor during the city council work session last Thursday, he was joined by newly elected councilors Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Braden and Dan Capron in pledging allegiance to constituents for their four-year terms.

After the inauguration, tensions soon became evident between Hill and the councilors as they went through what are ordinarily routine appointments of citizens to various city committees.

It began with the mayor’s appointments for the city Budget Committee.

“Excuse me if I’m wrong, but it is my understanding that mayor appoints and the council gives advice and consent on those appointments,” Hill said before listing his four appointees for the committee.

City Attorney Larry Sullivan said that was correct and Hill listed LeRoy Cammack, Mary Jo Evers, Bruce Hunter and Ken Hart for the Budget Committee.

After Hill stated his reasons for appointing each person, it was the council’s turn to consider the mayor’s selections.

City Attorney Larry Sullivan said that was correct and Hill listed LeRoy Cammack, Mary Jo Evers, Bruce Hunter and Ken Hart for the Budget Committee.

After Hill stated his reasons for appointing each person, it was the council’s turn to consider the mayor’s selections.

Rodriguez started off the discussion.

“I agree with your picks except for LeRoy,” he said. “I feel that we should definitely include a younger candidate, with experience obviously, on the budget committee and the audit as well. With that being said, I would replace your suggestion of Leroy with Tess Winebarger.”

Councilor Norm Crume said he agreed with three of Hill’s picks but not Evers. He reasoned that the Budget Committee already has “lots of CPAs” and suggested that Hill replace Evers with Tom Jost, a former councilor

Councilor Marty Justus agreed with Crume, arguing that the city should bring in more diversity and that the Budget Committee would benefit from having a member who might not have accounting or finance experience but could bring in a fresh perspective. 

 “OK,” Hill said. ”Those are the three I appoint. Let’s see what the council says.”

Before Hill called the council to vote on his four picks, Crume suggested voting separately on each nominee.

“I think it’ll make it real easy and simple to get it handled rather than trying to vote for all on one time,” Crume said. “Just a suggestion.”

Hill rejected the suggestion and stuck with his decision to have councilors endorse all four or none. 

A minority of the council — Crume, Rodriguez and Justus — voted against the mayor’s appointments.

Hill got his way.

Moving on, next were appointments for the Public Works Committee. 

Hill appointed Larry Tuttle and Jackson Fox.

This time, Councilor Dan Capron objected. 

“I would like to mix it up a little,” Capron said. “I feel it would be good mix to have the experience of Larry Tuttle and bring in the experience of Bruce Hunter… who was on the Budget Committee before.”

Crume agreed with Capron, arguing that the city should try to “get more diversity here, instead of having same mindset and same thought process.”

Rodriguez also agreed, suggesting that Jerry Elliott should join Larry Tuttle in public works.

Hill explained that the city ought to appoint to committees individuals with relevant experience. It soon became obvious councilors were deeply divided with Hill’s approach to governing. 

Hill wanted to get his way. His councilors wouldn’t let him.

Crume, Rodriguez, Braden and Ramon Palomo, voted against Hill’s two appointees for the Public Works Committee.

When City Recorder Tori Barnett announced that the mayor’s appointment failed approval from the council, Hill blamed the council.

“I guess we don’t have anybody on that committee now,” Hill stated.

Sullivan said that wasn’t necessarily so.

“There are other options, mayor. You can go back and ask for them to vote on one or the other,” Sullivan said.

Hill cut him off.

“I understand that,” Hill said. “Right now, we’ll just sit on it and move on to the next committee.”

 “A majority didn’t necessarily dislike either one of those people, so if you are naming both of those appointees and you are unable to get a majority to favor those,” explained Sullivan. “They are still your appointees, and you can ask for advice and consent on either of them individually.”

Hill wasn’t persuaded.

“I think I understand that, so we’ll move on to the next committee,” Hill said.

Hill moved on to appointments for other committees, in which he gave his councilors the freedom to nominate whomever they see fit. When his councilors nominated people to a committee, Hill would vote yes in support. “I have given the council the pleasure on all these other committees,” said Hill. “I’m hoping I could get one councilor to change his vote to go along with me” on the public works committee.

He restated his appointees for the committee — Jackson Fox and Larry Tuttle.

“You already had them vote mayor. You can’t call for another vote on exactly the same motion,” Sullivan argued. 

Capron noted the council could vote again if someone voting in the majority on the appointments wanted to have the decision reconsidered.

Braden, who had voted against the appointments, did so and then changed his vote to favor Hill’s appointments.

In the end, Hill got what he wanted.