Attorney: River Falls mayor can also serve as water super

Published 1:39 am Wednesday, March 2, 2016

After months of questions about the legality of the River Falls mayor also serving as water superintendent, the town attorney said it was legal.

In November, Mayor Patricia Gunter asked to be paid $100 per month as water superintendent and and asked for retroactive pay since the current administration took office.

Last night, town attorney John Peek said that the state statute that was in question only has two cases that have been ruled upon and neither of them apply to the River Falls situation.

“There isn’t a lot of guidance from the courts,” he said.

Gunter to told council at the November meeting that there is a resolution naming the mayor the water superintendent.

Peek said he studied the minutes from the 1990s and the state statue allows the mayor to be the water superintendent in this case.

“Mayor Gunter can continue as water superintendent unless the council changes its mind,” he said.

Peek did say the council could name someone else if they didn’t want the mayor to serve in the capacity.

Mayor Pro Tem Mattie Freeney, who was unsure in November of the legality of Gunter being the superintendent due to the fact that she doesn’t actually perform the work, said her point was that Gunter isn’t doing the work.

“Are you saying she doesn’t have to do the work?” Freeney said.

Peek said he thought it was OK for the superintendent to delegate duties, unless there was a set agreement with the council.

Peek also said that he thought it would be hard to find someone to do the list of requirements for the pay.

“The statue doesn’t allow you to appoint four people,” he said.

Council member Gary Wages said it was worth it to him to pay Gunter $110 for answering her phone when people come in his place of business with a water complaint.

Freeney and city clerk MaryAnn Andrews pointed out that Shane Cook, who provides the labor for the water department, has his phone number on the door at city hall and residents could contact him if they have water issues.

Gunter said that they council had not given a town employee authority to make certain decisions, so she didn’t see a way to appoint someone else.