Nevada City Mayor Reinette Senum dodges sanctions, underlying issues unaddressed (VIDEO) | TheUnion.com
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Nevada City Mayor Reinette Senum dodges sanctions, underlying issues unaddressed (VIDEO)

John Orona
Staff Writer

Nevada City Mayor Reinette Senum retained her mayoral title and faced no sanctions during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, after no motion was made following discussion of possible censure or removal of her title.

During the meeting, Senum apologized “for any angst” she has caused and disputed specific instances in which Vice Mayor Erin Minett accused her of misrepresenting the council’s position and actively soliciting opposition to the 5G wireless telecom regulations, which originally led to the discussion. Following public comment, the council ultimately decided going forward with any sanctions would not benefit the city.

However, according to several council members at the meeting, Senum’s public comments were only the tipping point which brought about the discussion, and the real underlying issues are the atmosphere over the past six months created by Senum’s handling of meetings and the difficulty Senum’s supporters have brought on city staff.

“We’re frustrated, that’s why it came to this,” Council member Duane Strawser said at the meeting. “Our staff keeps getting thrown under the bus both here in meetings as well as in the office off hours. They’re not comfortable anymore and that’s not fair to anybody.”

Based on those grievances, its not clear how the apology would help to quell the animosity between the council or staff, but Senum said she is ready to move forward.

“The last six months people are wondering what’s going on, why has the public gotten so loud and boisterous? It’s because they’re frustrated and I’m frustrated because of the process,” Senum said. “Overall I think this has been a learning experience for all of us, I think it’s going to be really good for us ultimately.”

Relationships

During the meeting, Strawser suggested Senum’s conduct has led to worsened relationships with PG&E, the county and surrounding cities.

“The city of Grass Valley will not work with us anymore, verbally, because of comments about our mayor, saying as mayor, the new Dorsey project should not happen,” Strawser said. “There’s reasons why we have individuals from the county and the other cities that surround us that prefer not to work with Reinette on committees.”

Nevada City Manager Catrina Olson and Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout couldn’t be reached for comment.

As proof of the rising tension and lack of collegiality, Minett and Strawser both said they’ve been contacted about the issue. Minett said she deleted one phone message that she considered a threat, but didn’t consider it to be threatening to her life.

“(Minett) made a lot of claims last night about threats, and when these really serious allegations are put forward that it’s really important to back it up with written documentation somehow,” Senum said.

Former Nevada City Mayor Evans Phelps said the city staff has, in fact, been affected by what she characterized as “chaos” surrounding the council meetings.

“This isn’t rumor, the staff is upset, it adds stress to the staff,” Phelps said. “Grass Valley doesn’t do this nonsense. There is such a contrast there.”

Last month Strawser predicted what would come of the agenda item and attempts to mediate the council’s tension.

“We’ve been through this over the years with Reinette,” Strawser said. “She’ll act apologetic and act like she didn’t realize she was doing anything wrong.” On Tuesday when asked if the meeting resolved anything, Strawser added, “Only time will tell.”

Revelations

During the meeting, a handful of other revelations came to light.

Olson said the intention of a closed-door Dec. 2 meeting was to mediate the council’s differences, which would have violated the Brown Act, according to the California News Publishers Association. The meeting ultimately was opened to the public.

Senum also revealed that she released invoice information to the public regarding the work and billing of Nevada City’s contracted law firm, Jones and Mayer, on the 5G regulation ordinance. According to Olson, the information released by Senum under the guise of a public records request was subject to attorney-client privilege.

Senum was informed at the meeting about the proper public records protocol.

“There’s a lot of things (against) our code of conduct that people have been doing for a long time,” Senum said.

“We’re moving forward but with a little more experience and a deeper understanding under our wings and I think that’s all around, the city, the staff, all of us learned a lot of lessons on this,” she added. “Now more than ever I believe the City Council realizes this is not Reinette’s agenda, this is Reinette speaking up on behalf of a lot of citizens and a growing body of citizens. I’m simply speaking on their behalf.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

Editor’s note: In an article published Thursday, Dec. 12, The Union wrongly reported that Vice Mayor Erin Minett had received death threats from the public. Minett said she deleted one phone message that she considered a threat, but didn’t consider it to be threatening to her life. According to Minett, the anonymous message said, “You better start siding with the right side. We know where you live.”


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