Emergency!

There was a sort of breathless, round-up-the-posse, circle-the-wagons excitement about Thursday evening’s hastily called special session of the City Council.

City staffers apparently believed they had found a smoking gun related to the contract for operations of the Pinon Grill at Tiara Rado Golf Course, and they rushed to get that information to the council and the public, even though there was no council action immediately requested.

We’re not sure yet how much fire there is behind that smoke. We’ll await the results of the audit into whether Pinon Grill operator Stephen Hoefer underpaid city sales taxes.

But it is interesting that Hoefer met with City Manager Laurie Kadrich at 4 p.m. Thursday — about the same time the news media were being notified of the special meeting set for 6 p.m. According to Hoefer, Kadrich mentioned not a word about the special meeting, even though they discussed the alleged sales-tax discrepancies. He only learned of the meeting afterward, when Daily Sentinel reporter Paul Shockley called to ask about them.

Why the rush? The alleged discrepancies were so startling that a special council meeting needed to be called, but the man accused says he was not even informed of the meeting?

The city staff has badly mishandled the rebidding of the Pinon Grill contract from the beginning.

By all appearances, city staffers favored the city’s own Two Rivers food service entity over private contractors for the grill. Now it appears as if they have been seeking evidence after the fact to show why Hoefer’s contract shouldn’t be renewed. This, even though Hoefer has already said he’s not going to submit a new bid — that he wants to stop operating the grill.

If the audit proves Hoefer failed to meet all his sales-tax obligation, he needs to pay them.

But City Councilwoman Bonnie Beckstein was right to question why city staffers missed the alleged discrepancy earlier, when the initial rebid process was under way and Hoefer was submitting a bid for renewal of his contract.

We wonder why the city staff didn’t do a better job of letting people know this all-important special meeting was going to be held. A notice posted outside the office of the city clerk late in the day before the meeting may have met the letter of the law, but it clearly didn’t register with most people. If the city could post a notice, why not an e-mail? Sending an e-mail apparently was not a problem when the city sent out its last-minute notification to the media Thursday.

And if, as Hoefer claims, he was not told ahead of time that his business and finances were to be discussed at the meeting, the city committed an even more egregious error.

If that’s the case, the city could be faced with yet another emergency over its handling of the Pinon Grill.


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