The Lodi City Council blocked JoAnne Mounce’s last appointments as mayor to several city boards and commissions after Councilman Bob Johnson accused her of not following city protocol.
Seven spots on four commissions will remain open after Wednesday’s night meeting until newly elected Mayor Alan Nakanishi reviews all 16 applications and makes appointments.
The city protocol, which was approved in 2011, says, “Applicants shall be interviewed by the mayor.”
Recently, Johnson received a complaint from an applicant who said they were not interviewed or contacted by the city after submitting an application.
Johnson then contacted six other candidates, who also said they had not been contacted.
“We have a policy that was voted on by the council, and apparently the policy wasn’t being followed,” Johnson said on Thursday. “And what’s interesting is it hasn’t been followed at all and that’s not how we should run the airline.”
Throughout the whole year, Mounce has been appointing with the same process of interviewing the top candidates for each board, she argued, and there have been no complaints. The issue, Mounce said, stems from a woman who was not appointed and is disgruntled.
Mounce said she goes through hundreds of applications for positions at her job at Doughtery CPAs, but she only interviews those candidates that rise to the top.
“You don’t interview people you don’t feel are qualified. I’m not going to waste their time or my time,” she said after the meeting.
The applications will come back at a future meeting because none of the council members made a motion to approve the nominations.
By not appointing members on Wednesday, the situation leaves some applicants in limbo. For example, Dave Akin applied for a third term on the Recreation Commission, but Mounce instead appointed Ethan Chelli and Larry Long, a current commissioner, to serve in the two open spots.
On Tuesday night, Akin had what he thought would be his last meeting. Lodi resident Steve Scott even thanked him for his service.
“I’m sorry to see you leave. I do hope that the new commissioners and the new officers are successful,” Scott said.
Now, with Nakanishi making new appointments, Akin will either lose his spot again, or Chelli, who applied for a city volunteer position for the first time, will not be appointed.
“I’m hanging in limbo,” Akin said on Thursday. “It’s just disconcerting. I feel like I had done an awful good job for the city in my volunteerism, and it felt bad not to be reappointed.”
Akin said he was not interviewed and only found out he would not be re-appointed when Director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Jeff Hood called him to let him know before the meeting.
Akin watched the council meeting from home, and said he was glad Johnson brought up the protocol. With an interview process, he said that he’ll at least have a chance to convince Nakanishi why he should remain on the commission.
“If there is a rule and it wasn’t followed, then so be it. It was wrong,” Akin said.
At the meeting Wednesday, Nakanishi said Mounce’s recommendations might still stand, but the policy, which he voted for in 2011, should be followed.
“For me to approve this would go against what I’ve voted for previously,” he said.
The policy was originally changed after questions came up about one of Johnson’s appointments. He decided to not reappoint a member to the Parks and Recreation board because he had served for 20 years and Johnson thought it was time for a change.
As the then-mayor, Johnson sent him a letter, which raised questions from Mounce and other council members on why the long-serving commissioner was not called.
“I felt like I did not need to call him, because I knew him personally and had served on the Parks and Recreation board with him for 10 years,” Johnson said.
The council approved a new policy requiring interviews, and Mounce made the first motion while Nakanishi seconded at the meeting in 2011. It passed, although Johnson voted against the new policy.
Johnson said he only recently found out that not all candidates were being contacted. When he served as mayor, he contacted all candidates with the exception of the one incident, he said, so he feels like it is a realistic goal.
In Galt, City Clerk Liz Aguire said people are required to submit a letter of interest. Each council member has one appointee on every board, and it is up to each person how they handle the application process.
“Some council members will call a lot when people submit a letter of interest, and some of them don’t,” Aguire said. “They see someone they like and they pick that individual person. It’s up to each council member and the process that they want to go through.”
Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at firstname.lastname@example.org.