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A failure to communicate

The absence of Williston's city manager at last week's council meeting left elected officials twiddling their thumbs as they were faced with the inability to act on time sensitive issues.

Council members expressed their embarrassment to the audience and those people who had come specifically to get answers to questions.

Unfortunately, it seemed only the city manager held the key to those answers and he was not there.

We learned Friday that Scott Lippmann, the manager, had been battling the flu all week and was justified in his absence.

That, we understand.

However, at every council meeting, the councilors and staff spend 10 minutes to half an hour discussing how to better improve communications among themselves.

It's often tedious to those in the audience because it is an internal concern, and bears little impact on the public. The Sunshine Law mandates these discussions be held publicly so twice a month we hear the same rhetoric how communications are improving, or can be improved.

It seems now it has been just that – rhetoric.

While we find the city manager to be effective in his position and always professional and courteous, it seems that almost a year of discussing better communications has not proven fruitful.

Flu is nothing to take lightly, as it has reached epidemic proportions in this country.

However, it also shows the need for the city manager and council to have a contingency plan in place, in the event something of this nature occurs again – and it will.

If the city manager is out of the office due to unexpected illness or incident, someone needs to act as his agent in matters that involve the city.

Someone needs to know basic answers to questions and be able to relate them to the council, especially during public meetings.

In this day and age, when text messages, emails and Snapchats are the way so many communicate, it should not be difficult to convey the most basic of information.

We understand emergencies. We understand illness. We do not understand how someone, anyone, in that council chamber did not know the city manager had the flu and was incapable of attending a meeting.

Beyond the simplistic view of better communications, we have to ask where were the basic tenets of caring and compassion when an employee left early Monday due to illness and did not come in on Tuesday.

A simple phone call would have saved embarrassment for all parties.

Is that asking too much?