Mayors long vacation has many in Archer miffed

Mayors long vacation has many in Archer miffed
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 7:46 p.m.

A pale yellow, one-story building with a pale green roof is the seat of government in Archer but the towns vacationing mayor hasnt set foot inside City Hall in months.

Mayor Frank Ogborn has missed several government meetings since he and his wife, who recently retired, went on vacation in July an absence that hasnt gone unnoticed by several concerned residents.

Roberta Lopez, a former commissioner and mayor of Archer, told The Sun she disagrees with the mayors extended absence from the city he represents.

I dont agree with him being away this long, because hes not taking off for any extreme circumstance, she said. We have too much important business and issues going on in Archer for anybody to take off.

Joan White, another former city commissioner, told The Sun that she emailed Ogborn in September asking for his resignation, which he declined to give. When he knew he was going to be gone for this long, White said she thinks he should have forfeited his office.

Hes just not there, she said.

White also said she feels that Ogborn has a lack of respect for the residents of Archer during and outside meetings.

My problem is not just the time hes been gone, she said, although she admitted thats a big problem. But I think its more the way he represents us.

Ogborn told The Sun in an email that he and his wife went on a cross-country trip to celebrate his wifes retirement and visit family. Theyve celebrated his father-in-laws 92nd birthday in upstate New York and have attended their sons retirement ceremony for the U.S. Air Force in Abilene, Texas, among other stops. Right now, theyre in Arkansas visiting his sister and other friends and family.

Obviously we visited other places, stopped along the way, and saw some very cool things. My wife can cross the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta off her bucket list! he wrote. We are planning to be home before Halloween.

At the Archer City Commissions regular meeting Monday, Commissioner Fletcher Hope asked to add an item to the agenda regarding the mayors absences, which the board then discussed later that evening.

Hope said theyve skirted the issue for months and even called for a public hearing on the mayors recent absences. The call for a hearing on Ogborn deadlocked in a 2-2 vote, with Hope and Commissioner Marjorie Zander in favor and Vice Mayor Doug Jones and Commissioner Gabe Green in dissent.

Archers city charter states a city commissioner will forfeit office if he or she misses three consecutive regular meetings within a three-month period without an excuse, although the City Commission can excuse absences and may waive this provision.

During the meeting, Hope pointed out that Ogborns absence isnt due to an extended illness.

It is just his preference, and its unacceptable, he said.

In addition to the commissions monthly regular meetings, Hope said the mayor has missed a budget workshop as well as public workshops on sewer issues and hazardous buildings.

In an email to The Sun, Ogborn said he talked to city staff before going on vacation and was told there was nothing in state statutes or the city charter prohibiting him from attending meetings via either Skype or telephone.

Before leaving on the trip in early July, Ogborn said he was excused from missing the June meeting after weather delayed his flight home. Since going on vacation, the city has tried to connect him virtually to meetings but theyve run into technical difficulties, although he was able to attend the August meeting that way.

Ogborn couldnt connect in September because he and his wife were in a part of the country without Verizon cell service, he said in an email.

Ogborn said he has only had two unexcused absences to date, primarily based on the fact I was unable to connect due to technical issues.

I have been fully engaged in city business and continue to talk with the city manager on a regular basis. I have kept current with my city email, mail and other issues as they arise, he said.

Ogborn said Archer has a weak mayor system and he has the same power and authority as any other commissioner. He also said the commission withheld his right to vote when in virtual attendance for some reason that he does not understand.

City Manager Al Grieshaber Jr. said the commission decided to allow Ogborn to participate in meetings virtually but chose not to allow him to vote that way because of potential legal issues that could arise. They didnt want to become a test case, Grieshaber said.

Grieshaber also told The Sun he has called other commissioners in the past after they missed two consecutive meetings to warn them they could have to vacate their office if they missed the next one.

Each commissioner is paid $200 per month for serving on the board, Grieshaber said, and Ogborn has continued to get paid while on vacation.

Although Vice Mayor Doug Jones, who has been chairing commission meetings while Ogborn has been away, told The Sun he only recalls Ogborn having two unexcused absences so far, he did say that Ogborn has missed other nonregular meetings that dont fall under the city charters forfeiture provision.

Hes missed more than just the regular meetings, Jones told The Sun. Theres no doubt about that.

But he doesnt think the mayors absence has affected the commissions ability to get things done, although he knows a lot of residents are upset.

Well, the impact on the commission running its business, in my opinion, has been zero, he said. And, you know, many people will point out that the mayor is a ceremonial position, so its more of an issue of his commitment as a commissioner than it is anything special about being the mayor, in my opinion.

Laurie Costello, a former Archer mayor and commissioner, is among those concerned residents.

She and others have wanted to get rid of Ogborn before this, she told The Sun, although she, too, is unhappy with how many meetings hes missed. In her opinion, Ogborn doesnt represent the residents well. Everybody just really wants to get rid of him, she said.

Costello said she is working on a petition with some other residents requesting a state audit of the city, and they have collected 80 of the 140 required signatures so far. She said she has already given the city notice of her intent to file the petition with the state.

She and other locals have formed a concerned-citizens committee that has at least a dozen members right now and is focused on various problems they see with Archer city government.

Costello said shes spent 33 years in Archer, which she said is a small, quiet town with friendly folks. People enjoy living here, but theyre growing worried, she said.

Citizens are starting to get real concerned about whats going on here, she said.

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