Last Modified: Saturday, November 03, 2012 8:03 PMWestlake’s mayor called the council’s decision to eliminate the funding for one city employee’s position a “personal vendetta.”
Council members unanimously approved the city’s 2012-2013 budget in a special meeting Wednesday, eliminating funding for the chief administrative officer’s post.
Councilman Bob Hardey, who headed the budget committee, said the more than $49,000 salary was eliminated because the position is no longer necessary for the city.
Mayor Dan Cupit said he was absent from the meeting because he is recovering from surgery after an accident, and Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Wally Anderson led the meeting — meaning he didn’t have a vote.
Cupit said the city has been operating without a budget since June 30 and that if there weren’t a budget by Dec. 31, it would be “disastrous.” That, he said, forced some council members to sign.
“The budget would not have passed if everyone would have voted the way that their conscience told them to in reference to eliminating positions,” he said. “Our community is in a serious position, so those council members agreed to put the city’s agenda ahead of their personal agenda and pass the budget as it was.”
Cupit said he believes if the council would have “voted their conscience” they would have been locked into a 2-2 tie, which would have killed the budget and postponed it another month.
Lonnie Smart, who has been chief administrative officer for three years, said he wasn’t aware his salary was being cut in the budget until it had been done.
“I had no idea they were going to cave in the funding on my job,” he said. “No one even talked to me about that. I do know that there are three people on that council who would like for me not to be around. I don’t know why because we haven’t discussed it. I would gladly sit down and talk with them though.”
Cupit said the decision was made out of a “personal vendetta” two councilmen have against Smart.
“I think it’s all the result of a personal vendetta between Mr. (John) Cradure, Mr. Anderson, and the man they cut the salary of,” he said. “There has been a personal battle going on there for the past year, and they have tried everything they can to get him out, and this is just another in a series of attempts to try and get him out.
“It’s unfortunate because (Smart) is a very professional man and I hate to see them be able to get in there and take someone’s career away from them like that,” Cupit said. “Really, they don’t even see (Smart) other than once a month at the council meeting, I work with this man nine hours a day and his job with the city is still necessary.”
Smart said, “The mayor is who I work for. I don’t work for the council.”
Cradure and Anderson had an investigation launched in July alleging that Smart had improperly used city funds.
At the time, Cradure told the American Press that he and Anderson brought forth the accusations because the city was “withholding everything” and “wouldn’t release anything.”
Smart referred to the investigation as a “political ploy by two people on the council that aren’t getting their way.”
The investigation is still ongoing.
Cupit said he turned the budget over to the city’s attorney and is awaiting a response as to what he, as mayor, can do about the council’s decision.
“I thought it was my responsibility as mayor to hire and fire people or cut positions, not the council’s,” he said. “They picked someone to cut their position who is an effective office employee.”