Laura Bruno takes helm of Quartzsite, vows to “right this ship”

A retired financial administrator whose job it was to rescue school districts and turn them around, a Northern Nevada resident Laura Bruno has been hired by the Town of Quartzsite Common Council as Interim Town Manager.

Bruno held a roundtable meeting with the press and the community Friday at which she emphasized the need for patience but vowed to get the town government working for the people again.

“We have already put some action plans in the planning stages, and I’ve reached out and made contacts with a number of agencies already,” she said. “I’ve reached out to our insurance coverage group, I’ve reached out to the League of Cities, I’ve reached out to the State Attorney General, I’ve reached out to the Department of Public Services and I did that in the first 8 hours.”

Bruno said she had been hired for a period not to exceed 6 months, and wanted to accomplish a full turnaround of the way things are done in Quartzsite before her time was up. She said she had been coming to Quartzsite for years with her husband in their RV.

She confirmed that Assistant Town Manager Al Johnson had been placed on administrative leave after he sent an unauthorized letter of termination to Police Chief Jeff Gilbert. Bruno described the letter as “inappropriate” and said Gilbert’s employment had not been terminated but that he is on administrative leave. Johnson and Gilbert join Town Manager Alex Taft on paid administrative leave.

Of the senior positions within Town administration, only the Town Attorney Martin Brannan remains in active employed status.

Bruno said that the Town had failed to communicate with the community, going on to say, “I want to open this up so that it becomes an open operation. This Town Hall belongs to the community … and the community needs to know where their tax dollars are going.”

Numerous questions were fielded from the press and the community about openness, and Bruno said that the Council would be looking at moving Council meetings back to an evening timeslot from morning. She also confirmed that they would be looking closely at adding ‘Call to the Public’ back into meeting agendas, which was scrapped after a local woman was removed from the podium last summer and the video of the event went viral on YouTube.

Many questions mentioned the status of Mayor Ed Foster, elected in March but still refused his seat by the Town. When asked if the Town now planned to seat Foster, Bruno replied that seating Foster was not her purview, saying, “The Council will be working with their legal counsel to make whatever decisions they’re going to make and however they’re going to move forward.”

A member of the community spoke up, saying, “So we don’t have a mayor?” Bruno replied, “At the moment we do not have a mayor.” A little later, another member of the community said, “You say we don’t have a mayor, yes we do, he is right here,” pointing at Foster, who was sitting in the crowd. The questioner asked, “Will the Town continue to violate state law by refusing to issue a certificate of election to our duly-elected Mayor?”

Toward the end of the meeting, the Town’s first-ever mayor Richard Oldham said he hoped Bruno could fix things, “but we need a mayor.” Bruno said that she had reached out to the attorney handling the case and had asked that they meet to give the attorney final direction on the matter. She reiterated that it would be up to the Council. When asked if this would happen before Foster’s court date September 19th, Bruno replied that she couldn’t answer that exactly but it would be “in relatively short order.”

Speaking afterwards, Foster said he was “encouraged” by Bruno’s words in general at the roundtable, and indicated that he was prepared to give her a shot to do what she said she would do.