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Hensley says her piece, gets "admonished"


An Electric City councilmember was admonished by the full council at a special public hearing last Wednesday night for activities judged to be beyond her authority.

Reprimanded was Councilmember Birdie Hensley, who became a member of the council for the second time this last January.

The mayor, John Nordine II, asked councilmembers Aaron Derr, Brad Parrish, Lonna Bussert, and Richard McGuire, to vote to reprimand Hensley in a public hearing that she had called for.

At issue were inquiries Hensley made of other agencies regarding the use of hotel/motel tourism promotion funds on projects such as Electric City’s proposed cross-city pathway. Hensley asked the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce about that city’s trail system project using hotel/motel money. She also contacted the State Auditor’s Office about whether Electric City could use tourism promotion money to build a trail system.

They all thought the issue of Hensley acting beyond her authority was settled during discussions at a city retreat in January. However, Hensley asked for the matter to be heard in public and invoked a section of the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.

The hearing was to give her an opportunity to talk about the two issues, which she said she understood, but didn’t fully agree with.

Derr called for a point of order when the discussion wandered away from the two issues.

One local resident, Steve Salstrom, asked to be heard on the matter and was given time to talk.

He said Hensley had done more for the city than all the rest of them put together. He was told that he needed to stick to the two issues of the public hearing, and when he failed to do so, he was gaveled down.

Bussert made the motion to admonish Hensley, and the council voted to do so.

Hensley said the request for a public hearing allowed her to explain to people that council members have restrictions on what they can do. She explained that she was trying to get information that would help her when those issues came before the council.

At the retreat, the city’s attorney had instructed both the council and the mayor about what their unique roles were in city government.

The council chambers were full, and there was standing room only.

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