Delta City Council appeared poised to censure Mayor Ron Austin following claims of misconduct and misuse of his role as mayor, but, at the Jan. 7 meeting, Austin issued an apology, prompting all council members to agree to let the censure resolution die.
The resolution stemmed from accusations of Planning Commission Vice-chairman Jay Stooksberry, who gave a presentation at the Dec. 17 Delta City Council meeting, in which he stated that Austin was unfit for the position of mayor.
Stooksberry’s leading point on his allegations were from the Dec. 3 city council meeting, for which Austin put Delta resident Cynthia Hansen on the agenda shortly beforehand, without the other council members’ knowledge. Hansen then proceeded to make various accusations against Councilman Nathan Clay, Stooksberry and Delta City Planning Commission Representative Ryan Crick.
As suggested by Stooksberry in his Dec. 17 presentation, Councilman Kevin Carlson put the resolution to censure Austin on Tuesday’s meeting agenda, prompting Austin’s response.
Austin’s statement, in its written entirety, is as follows:
“Good evening council and I want to thank all of you for being here.
“My initial intentions were to ask council for a two week continuation to allow me the opportunity to prepare a response.
“I am not going to do that and I'd like to explain why.
“‘Censure' is defined as; a judgment involving condemnation, the act of blaming or condemning sternly, an official reprimand.
“I suggest, that if we consider the numerous articles that have been written, recent and current radio, television and news stories, public and private comments and ultimately this resolution. I humbly submit that the censure of your mayor has been accomplished.
“After many thoughts and prayers, I have come to a fuller understanding of what it means to be the mayor of Delta. I also believe that to continue this action will further enhance an unhealthy environment that has been allowed to exist in our city.
“As your mayor, I am responsible to provide the leadership for council and the community at large. I have also come to realize that even though all of my intentions and actions have been honest and sincere, I have allowed a divisive air to fester in our community. We all have feelings, emotions, prejudices, perceptions, enthusiasm, visions and dreams and as your mayor, I have allowed all of those traits to influence my ability to effectively serve in that capacity.
“In spite of what you would hope for in a mayor, I am as imperfect as we all are.
“If my fellow council members choose to follow through with this resolution, I will accept it. I will also accept the opportunity and challenges to provide the leadership that I was given when elected as a council member and your mayor.
“I would also ask that everyone in our community put their own feelings, emotions, perceptions and prejudices aside and accept my apology and my sincerest desire to bring this city together.”
Austin’s statement was immediately met with gratitude by all four council members, who unanimously agreed to let the resolution for censuring die on the table.
Carlson, who put the resolution on the agenda in the first place, told Austin that he’d hoped a statement of that sort would be issued, but that he hadn’t expected it to. He told Austin that he hadn’t wanted the resolution to come off as any sort of personal attack.
“I did not have any ulterior motive,” Carlson told Austin. “I did not have any intentions to attack you personally and I hope I wrote it that way, and I understand that when you censure someone, it is a reprimand. I look at this like we are a family and we have to police ourselves.”
Carlson then said, “I believe that with this letter, I would withdraw my resolution and we can move forward as a unified body.”
Carlson recommended selecting a different council member to represent the City of Delta at Delta County Economic Development (DCED) meetings in place of Austin, as some accusations of misconduct against Austin were in regards to his claimed lack of clarity on economic development plans while he sits on the DCED board.
Austin stated that he was OK with the decision to replace him on the DCED board, and on a council vote, Carlson was elected to attend future DCED meetings and represent the City of Delta.
No other official changes came out of the dropped ordinance or Austin’s statement except, as said by the council members, a stronger unity within the council and a brighter future. Each council member generally agreed that they could move on with business and put the events leading up to the censuring ordinance behind them.