Councilwoman Michele Weeks calls foul on tree commission dismissal
By Kelly Cannon | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tensions were high during the Oct. 18 Draper City Council meeting after Councilwoman Michele Weeks accused her fellow councilmembers of conspiring behind her back to get rid of all the existing members of the Draper Tree Commission. The motion came after accusations of misconduct from the tree commission, including possible theft of trees. The motion to remove the members was part of the consent agenda but Weeks removed it from the agenda to address her concerns.
Weeks called the other members of the council “unprofessional” and accused them of meeting outside of open meetings to decide to get rid of the members of the tree commission.
“Are you guys meeting in a quorum outside of this? Because this is not the only time you guys have made decisions and not included me. For instance, the fire chief. You all met with the fire chief. You were all invited to meet him,” Weeks said. “You need to include me. I need to know the reasons why you are eliminating all the members of my tree commission.”
Weeks was angry she did not receive any notice before the meeting that the tree commission was being reconstituted. Mayor Troy Walker explained the decision hadn’t officially been made to get rid of the members of the commission, only to vote on it at the meeting.
“To be clear, it hasn’t been decided. I don’t want the record to reflect that it’s been decided. What’s going on tonight is deciding it. That’s the very point you’re making and the discussion we’re making to have,” Walker said. “That’s why it’s on the agenda, so it can be decided. There was no other decision making other than the decision to put it on the agenda.”
Weeks asked for a reason behind removing all the members of her commission. Walker censured Weeks for calling it “her” commission.
“First of all, it’s not your commission. It’s the city’s commission,” Walker said. “Second of all, no one has to give you a reason for it. They just have to vote on it. You can ask for the reasons but they may not want to give it.”
Councilman Jeff Stenquist revealed he was the one who put the item on the consent agenda after receiving concerns about the members of the tree commission from residents.
“I felt like based on that feedback, I think it’s something that is fairly straightforward for us,” Stenquist said. “Rather than singling people out, just wipe the slate clean.”
Weeks addressed the concerns voiced by residents, stating she had heard through the grapevine that members of the tree commission were accused of stealing trees off of 13000 East. Weeks said she talked to the Draper Police Department and the case had been closed and the accusations had no foundation. Weeks said there were 29 extra trees left in a vacant lot and there was no discussion as to what was to be done about them. She went on to explain because they were left there, anybody could take them. However, 13 of the trees have been recovered.
“If that’s one of the reasons (for dismissal), I think that’s sad. These individuals are all qualified. They’re all volunteers. I don’t think Draper has treated them very well,” Weeks said. “I don’t believe they get the respect from Draper City that they have in the past. Even in the ordinances they did have, they didn’t have control over those ordinances up until two weeks ago. Now you’re saying let’s start over. But I haven’t really been given a good reason why this is happening.”
Stenquist said the council needs to make it very clear that all boards and commissions are appreciated by the council and the city.
“We appreciate their service to the community. We have a lot of volunteers who do a lot of work for the city and we appreciate them very much,” Stenquist said. “But at the same time, it’s a responsibility of the mayor and the council to choose the members and make sure that we have the right people involved.”
Weeks answered back saying the right people are already on the commission.
“If you’re going to have these people volunteer, you need to respect what they do, respect what they say and respect their knowledge and just don’t eliminate them for no good reason,” Weeks said. “And then, at least, tell the city councilmember who looks over the commission what is going on and why it’s going on.”
The motion to dismiss the members of the tree commission passed with Weeks as the only opposed vote.