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Newly elected Council Chair Sharon Stover has resigned from the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board. Critics cited conflict of interest concerns because Stover voted on the recently approved interim teen center project proposed by the JJAB.
Community activist Pat Max said Stover should have recused herself from voting because she was a paid contractor with JJAB.
Councilor Mike Wismer, who recently completed his term as council chairman, said there was no conflict of interest regarding Stover because county funds awarded for the interim teen center are going to the contracted operator and not to JJAB.
“Neither Councilor Stover nor the JJAB will benefit financially in any way from this contract,” Wismer said. “It’s a shame some people are misunderstanding the situation and speaking out against Councilor Stover because her only interest is and always has been what’s best for the community – working with her on council I can tell you she is an extremely dedicated and committed public servant, especially when it comes to our youth.”
He explained that council voted to go out for requests for proposals for operating the interim teen center and that the Los Alamos Family YMCA was awarded the contract. JJAB did not submit a proposal to run the center, he said.
Stover resigned as JJAB coordinator to free up time for her council duties and has mainly handled the overseeing of the accounting process submitted to the state as well as handling the ongoing relations at the state level.
Stover addressed the reasons behind her resignation from JJAB during an interview Monday.
“I sat down with my husband on Sunday Jan. 2 to talk about the amount of time I was spending on all of my civic activities and commitments and we simply decided that it was the right time to leave JJAB,” she said.
Municipal Court Judge Alan Kirk chairs JJAB. He said that Stover has hinted at resigning from JJAB for the last year or so because of her increasing time commitment on council, adding that he wasn’t surprised by last week’s announcement.
Kirk explained that Stover has been with JJAB since its inception in 2005. She began as its coordinator at $20 an hour and most recently earned $30 an hour. Kirk said the funding to pay Stover and current coordinator Debbie Gill comes from the state JJAB program.
“Throughout her years on JJAB, Sharon volunteered many more hours than she ever billed us and with all her knowledge, professionalism and willingness to devote so much of her free time it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible to replace her,” Kirk said.
JJAB’s responsibility has been to develop a continuum of program services and activities for the community’s teenagers … to identify gaps in needs and services, he said. JJAB has been getting feedback for a long time from the community of the need for a teen center, he said.
“We knew JJAB would be the applicant for that proposal and we also knew it would take 2-3 years for a new teen center so we looked at how best to fill that gap,” Kirk said.
That resulted in JJAB going before council with a presentation explaining the need for an interim teen center.
“We did not at any time ask for funding to run a teen center – we do not run those types of programs,” Kirk said. “We received advice on the conflict issue and since JJAB would not gain and Sharon would not gain from the center, there was no conflict. All I can say is that I find the criticism interesting in that we really advocate for those people in the community who feel their voices aren’t being heard. Rather than criticize us – come join us – come be a part of something good.”