Monday evening’s special meeting of the Parks and Recreation Board Commissioners was a somber affair, with members and guests in attendance pessimistic about the civic group’s future.

Their concern was confirmed less than an hour later when the City Council voted, in a separate meeting, to disband the City’s Board of Park Commissioners.

“A couple of weeks ago, we had a Parks Board meeting, and were talking about the resources and expenditures of the Super Rec Center and that we weren’t meeting budget codes,” began Parks Board Chairman Bill Flanagan. “In support of the city manager, we called that to the staff’s attention and tried to analyze the facts and come up with a solution.

“I received a visit a week or so later from Terry Chase and the Mayor (Brant Shallenburger) wanting (Parks Board member) Mack Greever to resign from the Board,” he said. “I spent two hours with them, looking at the pluses and minuses, and talking about several other issues — including the lack of communication from the city manager.”

Flanagan told the Board that interface to the public, communication between the Parks Board and City Council was key, it was something which he felt had been sorely lacking in recent months. Flanagan said in meetings with the Mayor and Chase they had failed to reach an understanding between the bodies, with communication even “deteriorating.”

“I think at one point, I said something to the effect that if the Council weren’t going to listen to our recommendations and give us adequate communications, there might as well not be a park board,” he said, “and that’s what got put on tonight’s (City Council) agenda — no one even mentioned it to me — I found out about it on the street.”

Flanagan clarified the Parks Board’s role as an interface between the Council and the public, dismissing claims that the Parks Board was responsible for personnel issues.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “We never hire employees, we never fire employees — I’ve never even seen a personnel review. I don’t know how that rumor got started, but somehow, that rumor was thrown into the mix.”

When Flanagan opened the table for discussion, Board members present gave their perspectives on the looming disbandment, some vehemently against it, some accepting of Council’s expected vote, but none were as vocal as Parks Board member Mack Greever.

“The whole purpose of this (suggested disbandment) is to keep me from talking because I have a different philosophy between the mayor, between Terry Chase, and apparently, between the rest of the City Council,” Greever began. “Apparently, you can have a difference in philosophy and be on a public board, and if it differs from a City Council, city management or whatever, then you’re not supposed to espouse that philosophy.

“Part of why I was asked to resign, I was against some of the changes here at the rec center,” he said. “I was in favor of raising rates, but not in favor of excluding kids and putting a lock on the front door — I think that changed the rec center from a first-rate public facility to an average private facility.

“At the last Parks Board meeting, I asked hard questions related to that, and I wanted answers,” he said. “I was getting back incomplete answers — nobody wanted to answer them, and I found that the easiest way to get rid of tough questions is to disband or eliminate the people that ask them — that’s what’s going on here.”

Greever further expressed his concern that the suggested disbandment of the Parks Board was a move to reduce or eliminate public input into the operations of city government, under the guise of “cleaning up all the committees” to get in compliance with the city manager form of government.

“What’s being done is the opportunities for the public to interface and look at the city government,” he said. “This total elimination of public participation is concerning — every citizen in this town should be concerned about this.”

Also troubling Greever was his perception of the city’s unwillingness to listen to two sides of an issue.

“Over the last 15 or 20 years, this Park Board has had disagreements with the City Council — there’s one former council member here that I know we had some philosophical disagreements with,” he said, indicated Don Purkey, present for the meeting. “Not one time did any of those people ever say ‘You don’t agree with us — you should resign’. Not once did they say to the Parks Board ‘We don’t like what you’re saying. We don’t like the hard questions you’re asking, so we’re going to disband you’.

“That sends a chilling message to every employee of the city — you better not disagree. If you do disagree with us and have the temerity to say something about it, you’re gone,” he said. “That’s what’s going on here.”

Greever acknowledged he thought little could be said at the City Council meeting to prevent the disbandment of the Parks Board, but cited it as an example of what he was talking about.

“That’s what the problem is — we’ve got the balls to ask tough questions and fight for what we think and believe in,” he said. “Our philosophy is gone, new philosophy is in place, and perhaps that’s what the public wants, but I doubt its what the public realizes.”

The final meeting of the Parks Board adjourned at 6:45 p.m., with Chairman Flanagan noting, “It’s been a pleasure to serve with you all.”