Town Council votes to appoint Bellis

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In a vote during a special workshop meeting Monday (March 19), the town of Taos Council, reappointed Rick Bellis as the town manager.

But the vote left several people in the public confused and prompted two councilors to later question what happened.

Councilors Nathaniel Evans and George "Fritz" Hahn voted in favor of keeping Bellis while newly elected Councilor Pascualito Maestas voted against the appointment.

Council member Darien Fernandez abstained from voting to appoint Bellis, citing a campaign platform to seek other management for the town and voted against the confirmation of Bellis' appointment.

"I feel that, at this time and out of fairness for Rick, I should abstain from this particular vote," Fernandez said during the meeting.

That should have made the vote 2-1. But Barrone, during the meeting, considered Fernandez' vote a "no" and cast a "tie"-breaking vote in favor of Bellis.

"In this case, a vote to abstain is a 'no' vote," Barrone said during the meeting. "That's the way I'm going to move today. I do break that tie."

Members of the public and council later questioned whether his vote was needed to appoint the town manager.

Fernandez said he does not know if Barrone's vote was needed or if the appointment is legitimate due to the nature of the vote. According to Fernandez, three council votes are needed to pass a measure when the motion only received two.

According to Robert's Rules of Order, an abstention vote is counted as neither a "no" nor a "yes" vote. Fernandez' abstention vote does not count toward the two "yes" votes or the "no" vote. Fernandez said the motion to appoint Bellis should have died at that point.

A majority vote of the council is needed to appoint the manager. The majority vote would require at least three votes, but the mayor only votes in the case of a tie.

The council then voted a second time to confirm the first vote appointing Bellis. In the second vote, Hahn and Evans voted yes. Maestas and Fernandez voted "no." Barrone cast the tie-breaking vote for "yes."

Several community members got up to congratulate Bellis on his appointment after the discussion.

The manager position remains an appointed position by the mayor, subject to council approval. The town recently passed an ordinance removing this political appointee status from other positions such as the town clerk, chief of police and others, making them classified positions instead.

According to Bellis, the job is an honor working with Barrone and councilpersons past and present.

"I am extremely honored to work for such a fantastic, diverse, rich, beautiful and historic community, such an unbelievably hardworking, dedicated and qualified management team and fantastic staff," Bellis said in an email. "It is no exaggeration to say that everyone here works their hearts for both the Town government and community and wants to make this the best place to live for their families and everyone else. There is an unbelievable pride in working for the Town."

Maestas, the single "no" vote on the initial appointment motion, said he believes Bellis to be qualified for the position but feels he has failed to develop better relationships with the public in Taos. The initial vote of appointing Bellis was pushed from a March 13 regular meeting, so Maestas could meet and speak with Bellis as Maestas is new to his council seat.

"I felt that moving the community forward would have been easier with a new manager versus attempting to repair the mistrust," Maestas said in an email. "I hope Mr. Bellis will make rebuilding the community's trust one of his highest priorities although it certainly will be an uphill battle!"

Bellis said he does not take the votes against him personally and instead is looking forward to moving on and working in the future for the community.

"If we are to move forward as a town, the most important job now is that no matter who anyone voted for, no matter whose feelings are hurt, the election is over, the people of the town have spoken, and we all need to work together for two to four years to tackle a lot of problems that aren't waiting around for us to get our act together," Bellis said. "So, in true Taos tradition, we all need to breathe deep, let it out and find a way for everyone to come together, build consensus and partnerships and to find a way to work together toward improving our community and the quality of life for everyone here and our future generations."

During the meeting, the council also passed an amendment to resolution 18-01A concerning open meetings. The amendment changes the time of the regular council meetings as well as the work sessions. Council meetings will be held at 4 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month and the work sessions will be held every Monday at 4 p.m. effective March 26, 2018.

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