City Council chasm widens over rail spur project
Colusa Councilman Kirk Kelleher has accused the city manager and at least one City Council member of conspiring to keep him from independently researching the prospect of a rail spur coming to Colusa.
But Councilwoman Donna Critchfield, who is named by Kelleher, and City Manager Jan McClintock said his accusations are absurd and politically motivated.
It is the latest in what has become a widening break among the council members, and comes just a few days after Mayor Pat Landreth posted a letter to the citizens on the city's website trying to clarify certain issues, including the importance of the rail spur, and striving toward a "common goal."
"... I was told by Donna Critchfield that contacting Rail America on my own was out of order. She told me I should trust the information I have been given by the city manager and not do any research on my own," Kelleher said in a statement.
The statement further claims that Critchfield told him his attempts to get information would be refused by Rail America, and because Kelleher knew she had not contacted the railway company directly, the councilman states, "I could only assume that the city manager or some other council person has instructed Rail America to not have contact with me."
He said his calls to the company have not been returned.
Critchfield said that is not what she told Kelleher, and he is blatantly misrepresenting their conversation.
She said she told Kelleher it was her opinion the railroad company would not likely return his call because it is not familiar with him.
And, in fact, Critchfield said, the company did call the city manager to ask who Kelleher was and what was the issue involved.
Critchfield and McClintock insisted that no one from the city instructed Rail America officials not to talk to him.
Critchfield said she has become frustrated with Kelleher's behavior. She said their conve sation had as much to do with Kelleher's dislike for Mark Mayuga and his contract than anything else.
The councilwoman is also frustrated with what she believes is Kelleher's apparent unwillingness to work other council members.
Critchfield said that Kelleher should have brought his questions about the rail spur to a member of the Economic Development ad hoc committee, which is comprised of herself and Councilwoman Kay Hosmer. They were appointed by then-Mayor Tom Reische.
Critchfield compared it to the situation with the Scout Cabin contract with the county. She said she had serious issues with the terms of those negotiations, but always brought those concerns to the ad hoc committee working with the county.
That committee included Kelleher.
"I didn't go over his head and talk to the supervisors directly," said Critchfield, who did not agree with the contract approved on a 3-2 vote, and Kelleher's position that the city should just trust the county to do what is not specifically addressed in the agreement.
McClintock said she has worked through the ad hoc committee just as the council had directed her.
When she learned of Kelleher's questions about the rail spur, she showed him confidential e-mails clearly stating that the project is real, and that there are ongoing negotiations involving Rail America, the federal government and the state.
Kelleher confirmed he was shown the e-mails.
"I also cautioned Mr. Kelleher that getting three council members involved (in discussions) could (create) a Brown Act violation," McClintock said.
The city has already failed to publicly address a likely Brown Act violation stemming from a Jan. 16 closed session, during which economic development issues and the contract with Mayuga were addressed without being properly agendized.
Kelleher has admitted raising those issues when he confronted Mayuga in what has been described as a heated exchange, at which time he also called for the consultant's contract to be terminated.
Critchfield said much of the public's desire to know more about the Calmetha project is understandable, but simply premature, and that a company that is privately funding the project does not have to reveal its plans.
She believes the whole matter is too early in the planning stages for the City Council to get directly involved, and she said the staff and the city's consultant are working in the city's best interest.
She has the support of the mayor and Hosmer on that point.
Kelleher notes that he hopes the rail spur and the Calmetha project come to fruition, but has concerns with the accuracy and totality of the information he and the council has received.
He believes it his duty to look into the matter.
Critchfield does not think the City Council should micro-manage the city.