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Museums board gains new trustee

Apr 30, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The Fremont County Commission appointed Carla Crofts to the group and heard complaints from the trustees' administrative assistant who was fired in March.

A new member joined the Fremont County Museums Board on the same day it faced a new controversy.

The Fremont County Commission appointed Carla Crofts to join the museums board March 18, giving it a full roster for the first time since November when Steve Banks resigned from it. Banks stepped down after trustees voted him out of his office as chairman.

Earlier at the meeting, the county board had heard complaints about the new countywide museums director and the museums board's trustees from a recently fired employee and the employee's husband. The new director, Scott Goetz, started work March 17 and reportedly fired the trustees' administrative assistant Sheila Lopez the same day.

New board member

Crofts said a good board member was "somebody that's open minded enough to interact with the rest of the board but keep in mind their own vision ... and make decisions for the good of the county, not themselves."

She also would bring her experience from working on the Wind River Visitors Council to the museums board, Crofts said. Her term ends June 30, but she said she would seek reappointment for a full, two-year term.

Commissioners also interviewed Richard Cook on March 18, and in February interviewed former county commissioner Gary Shoemaker for the trustee post.

In the end, the county board voted unanimously to appoint Crofts. Commissioner Larry Allen was not at the meeting and did not vote.

Fired administrative assistant

Lopez's husband, Marcel Lopez, said he thought his wife was fired unfairly.

"I would ask as you consider this as a board of county commissioners, that you allow Sheila (Lopez) to return to her job," Marcel Lopez said. "I think it's incredibly sad that (Goetz's) first act as a county employee is to fire somebody."

Commission chairwoman Keja Whiteman said the county board could not comment on personnel issues in an open meeting but would consider Marcel Lopez's concerns.

Later in the meeting, commissioners had two executive sessions for personnel, the first with their attorney and the second with their attorney, two museums board members and Goetz.

Marcel Lopez also questioned the process by which his wife was fired. Goetz and museums board chairman Jon Lane told Sheila Lopez her position had been eliminated, he said.

He argued only the museums board has the authority to make such a decision, but the museums board never discussed eliminating the administrative assistant position, he said.

Marcel Lopez leveled the blame at some of the museums trustees.

"I would like to point out that the museums board has created an extremely hostile work environment mostly because some members of the board, Carol Chidsey and Erin Shirley, both run that board by intimidation," he said.

Marcel Lopez related several incidents over the past year in which he thought his wife was unfairly accused of doing a poor job.

Sheila Lopez blasted the same trustees.

"I would like to implore the county commission to please remove the three board members Carol Chidsey, Erin Shirley and Jon Lane or at least remove Carol Chidsey," she said. "You have heard how she treats the employees, they all are in fear of her."