Avon council majority stands by mayor, town manager
AVON — Thursday night’s public meeting was not your ordinary new council swear-in meeting, and not just because it was on a Thursday.
A standing room only crowd gathered in the Avon Town Hall to witness the swearing in of recently elected council members Jennie Fancher, Jake Wolf and Amy Phillips, and to see who would become mayor once the elected officials pledged their vows. A dozen or so locals spoke out in favor of Wolf becoming mayor; former council members Tamara Underwood and Kristi Ferraro, Wildridge resident Susan Gruber and Fancher’s huband, Gil, spoke out on Fancher’s behalf.
Several people who spoke in favor of Wolf becoming mayor pointed out that he received the most votes in the election and in Avon’s history. Phillips, who was a council member from 2004 to 2012, began her 2016 term by explaining to the crowd that the popular vote does not determine who becomes mayor in Avon.
“If we were electing on the most popular votes, I actually have over 2,100, having this be my third term,” Phillips said. “I have more than twice the experience of any other members on this council.”
In the end, the council voted 5-2 in favor of keeping Fancher as mayor, and 5-2 in favor of demoting Wolf from the mayor pro tem position in favor of Sarah Smith Hymes, who was elected in 2014.
“It did take the wind out of my sails a little, I’m not going to lie,” Wolf said after the meeting. “But sometimes that’s how it goes.”
‘NOT A PUBLIC DECISION’
It’s uncommon to see numbers like we saw on Thursday at a swear-in/mayor selection meeting in Avon, said longtime meeting attendee Michael Cacioppo, who spoke out in favor of Wolf but predicted he would not become mayor. The selection of Fancher made him “very concerned,” Cacioppo said.
Wolf said Fancher and Smith Hymes had both expressed displeasure in Wolf asking supporters to attend the meeting on his behalf.
“I was basically told not to invite the public to a public meeting,” Wolf said.
In a text message to Wolf, Fancher said she was incredibly disappointed.
“The Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem are selected by counsel (sic) not the community,” Fancher wrote.
Smith Hymes sent Wolf a similar message to Wolf.
“We 7 choose who we want to facilitate our work — it’s not a public decision,” Smith Hymes wrote.
NO VIDEO OF MEETING
J.K Perry with High Five Access Media, who usually records public meetings in Avon, said he didn’t receive the meeting notice that was sent out on Wednesday. As a result there will be no recording of the meeting available on highfivemedia.org.
“If we had been asked, we would have done our best to accommodate the town,” Perry said.
Wolf said minutes at Avon meetings are often incomplete, which is why he relies on High Five Access Media. It’s a point Phillips brought up during the campaign, as well.
“If Channel 5 doesn’t know about the meeting, then there’s not going to be a very good record of that meeting with the way we do minutes,” said Wolf, who during his own campaign said he would like to see more transparency in Avon government. “Which goes back to what I’ve been saying about transparency.”
It was the third public meeting this week in Avon. The other two were noticed on the town’s Facebook page, but Thursday’s was not.
“If I had not have let people know about (the meeting), which I was told not to do, then nobody would have even known about it,” Wolf said.
Wolf ended Thursday’s meeting with a surprise motion to terminate town manager Virginia Egger, which received a second from council member Matt Gennett, who also voted for Wolf as mayor. The motion failed by a vote of 5-2.