Jones addresses nonprofit veto

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Murdock explains his own solution to the dilemma

PINEDALE – The Pinedale Town Council’s regularly scheduled meeting Monday night did not materialize due to a lack of quorum after councilman Jim Brost was unable to attend “due to unforeseen circumstances.”

But after checking with town attorney Ed Wood, who said it would be acceptable to have “an unofficial meeting of people,” Mayor Bob Jones took the opportunity to address his mayoral veto that effectively defunded the eight nonprofit organizations that had applied for about $90,000 in total this year.

“I made that veto for a couple of reasons but mostly, the state Constitution, in my mind, is very clear on where we can and cannot give money out,” Jones said.

In his June 1 veto, he cited Article 16, Section 6, of the Wyoming Constitution, which addresses “loan of credit, donations prohibited, works of internal improvement” and reads: “Neither the state nor any count, city, township, town, school district or any other political subdivision shall loan or give its credit or make donations to or in aid of any individual, association or corporation, except for necessary support of the poor, …” (emphasis added by Jones).

“My intention was not … to defund some very important programs in town,” Jones briefly explained Monday night to a packed audience, for whom more chairs had to be brought in to accommodate the size. “I just feel it’s very important to follow the Constitution.”

He then said councilman Matt Murdock, who previously stated he had anticipated the potential veto based on private conversations with the mayor, was working on a solution to the alleged dilemma.

Jones asked Murdock to speak to the issue Monday night.

“I believe we have a solution where we will be able to fund most, if not all, the programs that requested,” said Murdock, explaining that – using preschools as an example – his solution would be to focus the funds on “disadvantaged Pinedale students.”

According to Murdock, he’s been in discussion with the various organizations, including the preschools, asking them to compile the number of “disadvantaged” people they serve who live in Pinedale.

Murdock also explained, citing drops in revenue and thus cuts in the town budget, that funding requests from the nonprofits would also probably need to be cut 15 to 17 percent. A contract would also need to be written by Wood between the organization and the town, detailing where the funds would be directed and ensuring the funding conformed to state law, though whose interpretation of “state law” was not clearly explained.

“I assure you, it’s going to happen,” Murdock told the audience, adding that he believed Jones was “willing to withdraw his veto” if those new parameters were in place.

According to Murdock, they were hoping to tackle the veto issue Monday night, when councilwoman Nylla Kunard and councilman Tyler Swafford were out of town.

Instead, the issue will have to be addressed at the June 26 regular meeting, when a full council is expected to be in attendance.

Following Murdock’s explanation Monday night, members of the public also tried to address the veto, which was met with disregard by Jones.

“This is not a meeting,” he said. “I just wanted to get this out.”

Jones then stood up and put on his coat, as though preparing to leave. He ultimately lingered in the center of the room and conversed with town staff, speculating on Brost’s absence.

Because Monday night’s meeting was not held, the town called a special meeting for yesterday, June 15, in order to take action on paying its bills, to vote on extended hours for American Legion Park, to vote on a letter of support for a dog-park grant, to authorize a Federal Aviation Administration grant and to discuss a Wyoming Department of Transportation grant for “alternative transportation.”

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