Lopas resigns from council, citing bench removal as 'last straw'
PRESCOTT - The Monday night/Tuesday morning move by the City of Prescott to remove the controversial bench at Granite Creek Park was the "final straw" for Councilwoman Lora Lopas.
In a letter to the council early Tuesday afternoon, Lopas submitted her resignation from the council post that she has held for nearly four years.
"It saddens me to feel I cannot complete the term, but I no longer can be a part of a council that chooses to not do their job of setting public policy, but rather micromanages details of the city on a daily basis," Lopas wrote. "As of this date, Oct. 25, 2011, I am resigning from my seat in City Council."
Lopas later said in a telephone interview that she has been "out of the loop" on the council for much of her term.
For instance, she said, she learned about the city's decision to tear down the park bench in Granite Creek Park from the media.
"I was informed by the article in the paper," Lopas said Tuesday afternoon. "That shows the complete lack of respect."
In her resignation letter, Lopas said, "For a city to go in the middle of the night (last night) and remove a piece of public art, when I was last informed there was a solution to replace certain tiles and keep the bench, that just frankly disgusts me."
That move, on top of other alleged micromanagement by the city, prompted her decision, Lopas said. "I was blown away by it; I thought, 'That's the last straw.'"
Lopas said she did not know who made the final call on the removal of the bench, and she was uncertain about exactly when the demolition occurred. But others have said the bench was gone from its site around a tree at Granite Creek Park by as early as 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Lopas, who won her seat on the council in 2007, said the instances of micromanagement among council members have grown over the course of her term.
"In my four years, I have never seen it so bad," Lopas said. "I know many, many (city) staff are in fear (for) their jobs, and that's not right. I've been watching it over and over and over, and I've been completely helpless."
And she agreed with the view of some residents - including Prescott College student Kristin Anthony, who created the Granite Creek Park bench - that the city has engaged in bullying.
"She was bullied," Lopas said of Anthony. "Nobody was allowed to be in the meetings but her."
In her resignation letter, Lopas said, "I know that each and every person on this council (has) a good heart and they really do think they are doing the right things, but it is, in my opinion, not what the public wants."
Lopas' council term was scheduled to expire on Nov. 22.
After Tuesday's City Council meeting, Mayor Marlin Kuykendall said he had just received Lopas' resignation letter, and had not yet had time to read it.
"It was totally out of the blue," Kuykendall said of Lopas' decision.
In response to her claims of micromanagement, Kuykendall said he was not involved in the Monday decision to remove the bench. "It was never a part of council policy-making," he said. "I've never even seen (the bench) except in the pictures."
Kuykendall noted that Lopas had yet to sign the resignation - a component that is needed to make it official.
After that happens, Kuykendall said the council likely would conduct a meeting to accept the resignation. Because of the short time left before the seating of the new council (Nov. 22), he said the council would not appoint an interim replacement.
Lopas, who said she had planned to miss this week's meeting anyway because of illness, was not at Tuesday's council meeting.