Council, mayor squabble over planning commission appointments

BURTON – While the city council approved three appointments by the mayor to the Burton Planning Commission, Monday night, a point of contention has arisen over one applicant who was passed over for the openings.

Councilwoman Tina Conley questioned Mayor Duane Haskins about his decision not to appoint real estate agent Joseph Richvalsky, who currently serves as an alternate on the zoning board of appeals and as a member of the Burton Downtown Development Authority.

Richvalsky had sent the administration a letter of interest in one of the openings on planning commission, but he was not included in a slate of appointees Haskins made to the council.

The openings were created by the decision of resident Deb Walton to not seek reappointment, the resignation of Lisa Williams who has taken another job and won’t have the time to devote to planning commission, and the death of John Benthall.

Two weeks ago, the council considered a couple of Haskins’ appointees, but ultimately did not support the appointment of Ted Hammon to the planning commission. The motion to appoint Hammon, a former city councilman and county commissioner, died due to lack of support.

The three appointments put forth Monday were approved by the council, filling the openings with residents Neil Martz, Erica Edgington and Kenneth Gay.

But Conley asked the mayor why he’d passed over Richvalsky and whether he would consider appointing him if there was a future opening.

“Why is Joey not being picked? What’s the reason you don’t want him on planning?” asked Conley. “Why weren’t zoning alternates considered How are we supposed to approve these people (Haskins’ appointees) when there are people not even being considered who expressed interest?”

Haskins said he didn’t understand why he was being questioned at length about his appointments.

“I feel like this is personal or something,” he said, to which Conley replied, “Definitely not.”

“I didn’t ask you for an explanation last month when one of my appointees didn’t even get a second, and you’re demanding an explanation for me on my appointees?” said Haskins. “I guess, furthermore, if there were any questions about any of these appointees or anything, (the council) could have called me and we could have discussed it one-on-one.”

He said there is nothing wrong with Richvalsky, citing his contributions to the city as an alternate on the ZBA and DDA.

“All these other people who put in to be on the planning and I put them on their to get approved. I don’t understand why there’s issues,” said Haskins. “You said you deserve the respect to know, well I deserve the respect to know what the problem is with the people I’m appointing.”

Conley asked if there were to be another opening if Richvalsky would be considered. Haskins refused to commit to that, saying, “I have no idea Mrs. Conley. I can’t predict the future.”

Conley then presented a resignation letter on behalf of planning commissioner Mary Ann White, who said she was stepping down from the board after 33 years.

“That would be a good spot for Joey,” said Conley.

Haskins was non-committal about the opening, leaving it to be addressed at a later date.