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Dear Editor:

Mr. Mayor and council members, after the recent city council meeting, I wanted to follow up regarding the hire of Mr. Andrew Nelson for city administrator. I understand that he has been hired at this point and you may feel that this decision is not reversible or may not want to reverse this decision. However, it is pretty clear that this hire is causing a huge rift in our community.

The trust between the council and the constituents of this town has been broken. While I understand that a moderated forum is being planned, it is fairly clear that there really is no way that Mr. Nelson will be able to be effective in his position with so much of the town against his hire (especially if you consider that 50 percent of the town are women; the populace that feels disenfranchised by this and does not seem to be reassured that the trust they gave in electing any of you has not been disregarded).

The moderated forum is an attempt to sew together this rift and heal the town. This, while commendable and much needed, doesn’t seem to address one of the problems at hand, Mr. Nelson is still hired for the position of city administrator.

It’s not unlike having injured someone, saying you didn’t expect your actions to hurt them but that maybe you can discuss the injury rather than get it treated. You are asking for us to give you peace and quiet instead of offering amends and peace to the aggrieved. It is not up to the citizens to make it right with you but for you to make things right by us.

While I understand Mr. Nelson is also offering to talk with anyone, as a woman I am not comfortable sitting with him to have a discussion. Also, what would such a conversation achieve? I already have heard multiple versions of what he did: both the reported variation and his personal viewpoint and those of the city council justifying their actions.

I don’t need him to tell me he is sorry or ask for compassion. I have a lot of compassion for him already. I understand he is charismatic and the council feels that he will win people over; however, we should note that charisma can be indicative of other psycho-social issues. I’m not saying that this applies to him, but charisma alone plus qualifications should not be the only consideration when the domestic violence question is present.

Even if we were to trust you – despite the fact you did not trust us up front – that he was only a danger to himself (something even Councilman Bowers disagrees with as does basic physics) and that it was not domestic violence but self-violence, that is not a scenario indicative of a leader who can handle the pressures of returning to such a job in a high-demand community facing numerous challenges.

Again, it is clear that the council made the decision to discount the domestic violence and as a matter of fact one council member indicated that it was decided there was no domestic violence. That is certainly not the council member’s decision to make in a void. It is appalling that this happened. You went the route of begging forgiveness rather than asking permission.

At this point, time may be of the essence. I am not aware of the conditions of his contract, but the majority of contracts of this nature have a probation period where action can be taken for removal from his position. Has the council had a chance to discuss his removal yet? Will we be able to escape penalties for removing him from his position of action is taken within the probation period? I am wondering what is the status of these discussions? Is the council even considering his removal?

We have two people on the council who indicated in Tuesday’s council meeting that they would like to reconsider the hire. One of which admitted to having his post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by Mr. Nelson. How will they be able to work together?

We have another council member with extensive experience in domestic violence who sees red flags all over the place with regard to Mr. Nelson. What will we do if this were to re-occur and he really hurt someone? Gunshots in our town could really hurt or kill someone, including possibly Mr. Nelson’s wife and kids.

That does more than reflect on the council, should that happen. It affects the victims, most obviously. It affects Mr. Nelson’s path of recovery and puts him at dangerously high risk for self-harm, which is not something we wish to see happen to him. It affects the citizens whose taxes will have to pay the penalties of any lawsuits.

It is too late to rehash what happened. That should have been before the hiring. We all know what facts Mr. Nelson admitted to the police.

We should not be rewarding this behavior. It has not been long enough to give him a coveted position in our town, especially when there were equally qualified candidates without domestic violence charges (whether they were reduced or not as a part of a plea deal).

You, Mr. Mayor and members of the council, admit to mistakes and failures on your part but do not seem to be willing to correct them. I would have hoped at least Mr. Nelson, if he is truly trying to fix things, would be willing to do more than say, “Mea culpa.”

Personally, I welcome Mr. Nelson to our town to be around his family and heal. It is good for him and as a member of a family that has been here for centuries, I am happy he entrusts Salida to be a place of peace for him. I truly hope he finds what he needs here. That does not mean he should be starting that path in the position of city administrator.

I have a great deal of compassion for Mr. Nelson and really wish him and his family the best for the future. In fact, I would even go so far as to say if he needs anything, our door is open. Truly. I also think it was nice of him to donate the funds to put the ribbon on Tenderfoot Mountain. However, I must ask, if he truly feels that no domestic violence occurred, what is the reasoning for this gesture besides a pre-emptive “look of sincerity” – just in case this topic became an issue – both on his part and on the part of the people who accepted his money?

Again, I am sorry, but the job of this position is not the crutch for healing. Think of it as someone who has been injured and is in need of rehabilitation: just because they are capable of walking again and are encouraged to exercise does not make them the person to represent you in the Olympics.

Mr. Nelson’s hire was a grave mistake for our community. In the current climate, it was an especially egregious and offensive action toward the women of this nation who are struggling more so than they have in decades. During a time of such upheaval, did it make sense to pick the candidate who would add gasoline to a fire?

You are aware of sanctuary cities. You have now presented Salida as a new type of sanctuary city where people may be rewarded before their time of restitution and mandated punishments are concluded and that the trust of the citizens is secondary to the bottom line. It is hard to escape the thought that you felt Mr. Nelson would create enough economic benefit for this town that your disregard for victims, women and their supporters would be forgotten come re-election.

Thank you very much and I look forward to a response.

Kristen Lionelle