Conflicts, controversy continue to swirl around Buchanan City Commission

Published 11:24 am Tuesday, January 9, 2024

BUCHANAN — Buchanan City Commissioner Dan Vigansky has been asked to resign by fellow commissioners but so far he has refused to do so. The commission voted Monday night to formally ask Vigansky to resign due to misconduct or they will ask the governor to remove him from office. 

Monday night’s action came after commissioners with Vigansky absent held a censure hearing against him Dec. 11 and found he had committed misconduct in office. That misconduct included four complaints alleging Vigansky violated the city’s ethics policy, rules of procedure and code of conduct.  

Three of the four complaints involved releasing confidential information of grievances against then City Manager Ben Eldridge, calling the grievances retaliatory and harassing city staff about the grievances. The fourth complaint alleged that Vigansky had addressed black residents attending a local meeting last summer as “you people” and “those people”. 

In commissioner reports at the end of the meeting, Vigansky called the whole process of the censure “a dog and pony show” from “a joke of a commission.”

“It’s insulting,” he said. “You say I’m insulting, just wait until you get the attorney bills for dealing with this.” 

“I’ve thought about this for 30 days,” he added. “I’ve stepped up and I’ve stepped out. I’ve been called racist and sexist and confrontational. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. You want to spend tax dollars to throw me out. Good luck getting the governor to throw me out and getting the signatures to recall me.” 

Vigansky said after the meeting that he had broken no laws and had been charged with racism and sexism based on hearsay and not the truth.

“Working people should think about what they’re doing to me and how easy it is to be canceled,” he said. “I’m not going to bow down to a few people.” 

Vigansky wasn’t the only commissioner in the spotlight Monday. Resident Carla Johnson spoke out about what she sees as Mayor Sean Denison’s violation of the City Charter. She submitted a complaint against Denison and requested a hearing on her concerns. 

“The City Commission must call on Sean Denison to resign for violation of Buchanan’s Charter, the first mayor in 75 years to usurp the powers of and remove a City Manager,” she said. “The current City Commission has a responsibility to the City Charter they were elected to serve.” 

Former County Commissioner Don Ryman expressed more general concerns about violations of the charter. He said the charter outlines the functions and duties of the city manager including the hiring and firing of all city employees. He believes that the contract signed with new City Manager Tim Lynch violates the charter since it does not give Lynch the right to hire and fire staff. 

Both Vigansky and Mayor Sean Denison are the subject of recall efforts. Recall language against both men was approved Dec. 18 and recall elections could be held in either May or November depending on how fast signatures are gathered. 

Denison spoke at the end of the meeting. He first thanked city employees for all their hard work and said they don’t deserve the criticism they’ve received during the recent Eldridge controversy. 

He then said he wanted to defend his own name:

“I have sat here for weeks listening to people criticize me, attack me, questioning my ethics and integrity and quite frankly – I’m done with it. I have no problem with anyone who disagrees with a decision that I have made. You have the right to disagree.  But there are ways to do that, that do not include making a mockery of our local government, and putting our community in a bad light, just because you disagree with the way a situation was handled.  

“So I want to be crystal clear – None of the events leading up to the circus that has recently been playing out in our city were due to any actions of Sean Denison. I didn’t have any complaints filed against me. I didn’t break any rules of procedure. Everything I have done in my capacity as mayor over the course of the last few months, is exactly what I am required to do, what I am obligated to do, and what I would expect from anyone else serving as mayor to do.  I took an oath to uphold the ordinances of this city and to follow the rules of procedure for this board. 

“I am tired of seeing my good name dragged through the mud, and I am prepared to spend my personal resources defending it.  Because I have integrity, I don’t do what is fast or convenient, or easy – I do what I believe in my heart is right. And I will continue to do that until I am no longer sitting in one of these five chairs.   

“You can criticize and disagree with me, but nothing involved with this circus was related to me,” he said. “There were no grievances filed against me. I did what I was obligated to do. I’m prepared to spend my own personal resources to protect my name.”