Cottrell, Harris spar over cost of business cards
A dust-up occurred at Wednesday night’s Nevada City council meeting, pitting Mayor Sally Harris against Councilman Steve Cottrell for city reimbursement of expenses that included – of all things – $145 for five dinners at Citronee, $150 for business cards, and $206 for plaques honoring citizens.
A ripple in the normally placid discussions occurred when Harris challenged Cottrell for questioning whether the city should pay for council members to attend a dinner at Citronee following last week’s economic development summit.
“The dinner is not a ‘necessary expense’ for any of us and not a nickel of taxpayers’ money should be spent,” Cottrell wrote in an opinion piece in The Union last week. “From where I sit, I believe it is fundamentally wrong for taxpayers to buy social dinners for officeholders.”
Harris said she was “personally offended” by Cottrell’s opinion piece for contending the expense was “illegal.” She also criticized Cottrell for not raising his objection with council members before writing the column.
Cottrell responded that he did not state that having the city pick up the $29 dinner expense was illegal – just inappropriate.
“I never said it was illegal,” he said. “I stand by every word I said.”
Some of the other council members said the dinner was beneficial to them.
Two in attendance came from the audience to address the council and support Harris’ position – former mayor Paul Matson and Downtown Association head Jim McConnaughay. Some in the audience applauded when Harris criticized Cottrell.
Harris then pointed to Cottrell for submitting receipts to the city for his business cards when he was mayor, as well as plaques honoring musician Utah Phillips and historian Ed Tyson.
City Manager Mark Miller said the business cards had been prepared “in-house” for Harris for less money than what Cottrell spent using an outside printer. He said the plaques were not “official” city business.
Councilwoman Sheila Stein helped Cottrell pick up the plaques, and Stein said she didn’t understand why the expense was not reimbursable.
After this article was posted on The Union’s Web site on Thursday, Cottrell sent an e-mail to the paper complaining about what he called a “dog and pony show orchestrated last night,” referring to the council meeting.
According to Cottrell, he had sent a confidential e-mail to Miller about the two unpaid bills on Nov. 8 and again on Jan. 22, inquiring why neither had been paid, but that Miller never responded to either one.
Cottrell supplied copies of the e-mails, as well. “If there’s a problem, please let me know so that I can help remedy it,” according to one of them, dated Nov. 8, 2007. “If there is no problem, could you please see to it that (the printer) is paid.”
According to Cottrell, Miller expressed “total silence and then, last night, offered a number of lame, belated reasons why he hadn’t paid it.”
Miller said Thursday he never received the e-mails. He said he hadn’t been on speaking terms with Cottrell for a long time.
At the end of the meeting, the City Council agreed on one thing: The city needs a policy that more clearly spells out city reimbursements.
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