Council Wrestles with Policy Questions

“I think if we put something on the ballot – we have an obligation to the citizens to explain it – both the pros and cons,” Los Alamos County Councilor Michael Wismer said. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Two topics dominated discussion at the County Council Work Session held Tueday evening at White Rock Fire Station 3: The general organization of committees that are formed by Council and the County Administrator and the roles of those committees; Council policy on the spending of County resources to desseminate information to the public on major projects and how balance can be achieved in doing so.

Over the past several years, the use of ad hoc committees by the Council and County Administrator has grown and with the increase, certain policy questions about the purposes and roles of various committees have also risen.

Council discussed some of those policy questions to determine whether to begin developing any formal policies regarding such committees:

  • Should there be a common set of standards that apply to ad hoc committees?
  • Should they only be advisory?
  • Is it ok for an advisory committee to advocate?
  • It the practice of initiating an ad hoc committee by first outlining its purpose and role in a specific committee charter adequate?
  • Does the County need a policy which specifies that such ad hoc committees must have a charter, and specify what must be addressed in those charters?

Also over the past several years, there has been some debate between Council members, and also between members of the public, about what the proper role is for local government when it comes time to provide information to the public regarding upcoming significant Council actions and upcoming ballot questions. 

Councilors Tuesday night discussed ways to ensure balanced information is disseminated.

No final decisions were made at Tuesday’s work session.

Following its work session, Council recessed to go into closed session saying no votes would be taken.

Councilor David Izraelevitz advised the County Administrator to “never set up a committee … call it a group” during Tuesday’s work seesion as Council Chair Sharon Stover clarifies a point with Council Vice Chair Ron Selvage in the background. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Council Vice Chair Ron Selvage said the Council should always be informed whenever a new committee is formed and that only Council and the County Administrator should form committees – not County staff or department heads. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

“We speak through our actions and when we vote – that sends a very clear message,” said Councilor Geoff Rodgers, using the example of Council’s clear stood on the Leisure Pool issue after having voted to pay $3 million if the public passed the measure, which it didn’t. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Council Chair Sharon Stover said that she wanted to be sure the County is consistent in the messages it sends out to the community. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Los Alamos County Public Information Officer Julie Habiger addresses an advocacy balance issue as County Administrator Harry Burgess looks on. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

“It is an obligation for staff and Council to put forth all known facts on an issue to the electorate,” said Councilor Fran Berting as Councolor David Izraelevitz listens. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Acting County Attorney Brian James describes something that measures about a foot tall to Deputy Police Chief Kevin Purtymun during a break in Tuesday’s Council meeting. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Newly appointed Deputy County Administrators Steve Lynne, left, and Brian Bosshardt listen to council proceedings. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Councilor Vincent Chivaralle takes center stage at Tuesday night’s White Rock work session. Unable to attend the meeting in person, he is broadcast through this conference phone set up in the middle of the room. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

The County’s David Griggs rings up Councilor Vincent Chivaralle just before the work session begins. Photo by Carol A. Clark/



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