On Friday evening, Aug. 30, the Mammoth Lakes Town Council held a Special Meeting in Suite Z. On the agenda were two closed session items: 1. “Council will hold a conference to consider discipline/dismissal/release of a public employee” and 2. “Council will hold conference to consider appointment of a public employee: Town Manager.”
There was no action taken during the closed session, according to Councilman John Eastman. Marianna Marysheva-Martinez (MMM) remains Town Manager.
Prior to the closed session portion of Friday’s meeting, members of the public were able to have their say on the matter, which would have allegedly dismissed MMM and hired local businessman Tom Cage as Town Manager if Council had been able to agree.
Contrary to what has been believed about public comment in the past, Town Attorney Andrew Morris stated that during this time of the meeting, members of the public are allowed to comment on items on the agenda.
“You are allowed to comment on items on the agenda according to the Brown Act,” Morris explained.
The difference, Morris continued, is that in a meeting where there is only a closed session item on the agenda, public comment can only be made on that agenda item during the public comment period. In a meeting where there is open session, the public has the opportunity to comment on items as they are discussed throughout the meeting.
Members of the public as well as the Town Council were surprised to hear this. Many members of the public had come prepared to comment on the closed session items in a round about manner, but quickly changed course to have their say.
Concerns from the public included the timing of the meeting. Not only was it held on a Friday when MMM does not work, but it was also a Friday evening at the start of a three-day holiday weekend.
Others like Dave Harvey pointed out, “We don’t need a Town Manager in training. We need one that can hit the ground running. If you have issues with Marianna, I can’t change that, but this [the switch] needs to be handled properly. If not, we are going to create a dark period in the Town of Mammoth Lakes.”
Harvey also pointed out in a letter he had written to Council the evening before that there “are established protocol for the ‘search and interview’ process. The Council should use them.” Otherwise the citizens of Mammoth will see this maneuver as a “cronyism” appointment.
John Vereuck was concerned about all of the “secret” meetings, and Clint Hyde pointed out that the citizens “don’t want another closed session and a couple hundred thousand dollar payout.”
Others such as Lisa Isaacs and Leigh Gaasch told the Council it would be horrible to get rid of a very professional Town Manager, while Mickey Brown pointed out that in order to be developer ready as the market begins its upswing, the Town needs some consistency.
Lastly, Pat Agnitch asked the Council to think of the staff and the residents when making its decisions.