Three Columbus park board members resigned Friday morning.
Parks president Brian Russell, Nancy Ann Brown, and Mary Tucker submitted their resignations in a letter to Mayor Kristen Brown.
Tucker says she and the other board members received a 13-page letter Thursday from an attorney representing the mayor. The letter detailed new parameters concerning the degree to which board members could be involved in decision making.
Tucker says it indicated the board did not have much authority over the city’s parks department.
“We’re not effective. We’re not making any decisions for the community and that’s all we wanted to do, so why have a board?” Tucker says. “To make the park board the best we can have–that’s all we wanted for the community.”
These board resignations come in the same week Ben Wagner, the former park board director, resigned from his position. Wagner was demoted to marketing coordinator late last year when the mayor accused him of improperly using city credits cards and failing to manage the parks budget.
After some city council members questioned the mayor’s reasoning, the council retained a lawyer to determine whether the mayor had the authority to demote Wagner. The lawyer indicated the law was unclear on that matter but the parks board should have the authority over most of the department’s activities.
“I think it sort of highlights the fact that the mayor doesn’t understand that mayors need to govern together with others–be that other members of the council or other boards or commissioners,” says City Council member Jim Lienhoop says. “In Indiana and in this country, mayors just don’t go out an act on their own like this, or they shouldn’t.
At the park board public meeting earlier this month, Mayor Brown did not show up as scheduled. But the board members at the time remained optimistic that they would be able to resolve issues with the mayor.
The resignations are effective immediately, and the mayor is in charge of appointing new board members.
Her office did not return calls for comment.
Sarah Fentem contributed to this report.