LINGLE – Paula Newcomb has resigned from the Lingle town council, saying “I can not let myself be treated like this.”
“This is with great regret. I love this town and the people here,” she wrote in a letter to the mayor and council dated Aug. 22. “I feel that I am not respected and not treated as the other councilman (sic).”
Newcomb received a 2015 appointment to the council and won election to a full term the following year. She said that after the executive session on Aug. 21, held behind closed doors to discuss personnel, “enough was enough.”
“Literally I was asking a simple question and it just got out of control,” she said. “When I was getting yelled at by a council member and disrespected and degraded, I looked at the mayor and I said, ‘you need to stop him. You need to stop this.’ And the mayor didn’t do anything.”
She identified Council Member Greg Asa as the person who was “completely out of line.”
“I’m a loud person all the time,” Asa said. “If it seemed like I was yelling, I apologize for that. Sometimes I’m a lot louder in a small space than I need to be. I regret she felt that way to the point that she needed to resign.”
Asa did not recall Newcomb asking the mayor to address Asa’s conduct.
Community center disagreement
Newcomb explained that her dream after moving to Lingle was to be on the town council.
“I love this town,” she said. “I love the employees and I love the people.”
However, there were areas in which she strongly disagreed with other council members.
In February, the council voted 3-2 in favor of using the town’s reserve funds to partially finance a new community center. Newcomb and Asa were in the minority, with Mayor George Siglin and Council Members Steve Edwardson and Joe Welte voting yes.
Newcomb, at the time, said that the town should not use its own money, but rather fund the whole cost through grants and donations - a position she reiterated on Friday.
“It’s not that I didn’t want our little town to have a community center. But when there’s other community centers so close, and we need to do other things with money, it’s not the best time,” she said.
She initially understood that the funding would consist of “pretty much all grants and everything.”
Siglin on Friday disputed the assertion that only grants would fund the center.
“That’s every town’s initial plan,” he said. “‘Yeah, let’s get it paid for by somebody else.’ That’s a world of fantasy.”
It was always his understanding that Lingle would have to use its own money on the project.
“We applied for a lot of grants, and if these grants would’ve come through, we wouldn’t have to use the reserves,” he said. “You always have to have some of your own money to show that you’re really interested in doing this project.”
He speculated that the town would ultimately end up spending less than $500,000 on the project.
Community center aside, Newcomb also took issue with the conduct of her colleagues in meetings.
“I’d just have a pit in my stomach because anything I’d try to do or bring up is gonna be shot down,” she said. “And I’m not, like, ‘I want it all my way.’ It’s not like that.”
She said that the meetings had “a lack of order” and the mayor would occasionally “slam his hand on the table” when addressing her. She also felt that Siglin was making too many decisions unilaterally.
“He was just deciding things and it was not brought up in the council. A lot of things were just going on and I don’t think that’s right,” she said.
Newcomb said it would “be a stretch” to attribute her treatment to sexism, but nonetheless felt that gender was a factor.
“I am not a feminist. I’m not one of those people like, ‘oh, women can do the same as men’,” she said. “But I do feel like it may be because I’m a woman. When the other guys say something into a conversation, they’re not stopped. They get to say whatever they want. And when I say something, it’s a lot of times shut down.”
Siglin said he had “no idea” that Newcomb was frustrated with him, saying, “I think we all treat each other equally.” The mayor had no comment on her allegations about his conduct.
At least one council member was in the dark about a vacancy on the council.
“There is? I didn’t know nothing about it,” Welte said on Friday. “Kind of surprises the devil out of me. I didn’t know there was a problem.”
Welte added that Newcomb was “always complaining about something that somebody does. Hell, I’ve been around the help. I’ve worked around the help and I’ve never had a problem,” he said, referring to town staff.
He said that she had “stormed out” of meetings on two occasions.
Newcomb acknowledged leaving the meetings in question angrily, which she attributed to the conduct of the mayor and council. She recalled that she once encouraged town employees to treat each other respectfully after “there was a little bit rumbling around in the office.”
Siglin defended Newcomb on Friday, saying she had not acted inappropriately at all.
“She was a good council member,” he said.
Filling the vacancy
Siglin plans for the town to advertise the vacancy to residents of Lingle, after which applicants may turn in a letter of interest to town hall.
The advertisement will run for multiple weeks and the council will select a new council member from the pool.
The mayor said he would hold off on taking action until Monday afternoon, leaving open the possibility that Newcomb would rescind her resignation.
“I will give her the weekend to think about it,” he said.
At press time, Newcomb had not reversed her decision. She said she will keep the option open to “possibly run for mayor, like people are wanting me to.”