Archive for Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Council split on mayor’s status

September 13, 2000

During a special meeting Monday night, Basehor City Council was split on whether the city's mayor should take a leave of absence, in light of criminal charges against him.

Two council members said they think leaving office until the criminal matter is solved would be best for the mayor and for the city. However, three other council members said it was too early to talk of resignation.

The mayor, John Pfannenstiel, 38, faces criminal charges alleging he had sexual relations with two male inmates at the state prison where he works and that he brought clothing and a watch battery into the prison.

At the meeting Monday, the five council members heard that, short of asking Pfannenstiel to resign, they could do little to remove him from office.

Council members were split on their opinion.

And based on statements made after the 25-minute meeting, it's possible the council will be short a member unless Pfannenstiel steps down at least temporarily.

Joe Odle, a council member, said that he believes Pfannenstiel should take a leave of absence from the mayorship.

"I don't think he can effectively run this city and defend himself," said Odle, a former mayor who is in his first term on the council. "I'm not asking him to step down permanently."

Following the meeting, Odle said he wouldn't return to his council seat until Pfannenstiel removes himself, at least until the criminal matter is settled.

"I do feel like this has had a negative effect on the city," he said.

Bob Vervaecke, another council member, agreed with Odle's suggestion of a leave of absence, saying, "I think it would be completely appropriate. I think you've done a hell of a job, but you've got a big cloud hanging over your head."

Vervaecke said he was concerned personally about Pfannenstiel and the toll the charges would take on him and his family.

Pfannenstiel said he would consider the suggestion.

But he added: "You'd be surprised at how many things I can handle at one time."

Tuesday morning, Pfannenstiel reiterated that he did not want to resign or take a leave of absence from the mayorship.

He has been placed on leave without pay from his job at the prison. He said his work with the city would help occupy his time.

"I don't have a feeling of stress in my heart, and I don't see any reason that I can't stay as focused as I have been," he said.

Two council members Vic Ziegler and Chris Garcia said they think talk of a leave of absence is premature. And the final council member, Burl Gratny, said, "You've done one hell of a job so far, and I don't see any reason for you not to do that."

In addition, Terry Lober, Pfannenstiel's attorney, assured council members that no city funds were being used to defend the mayor. Lober works in the same law firm as the city's attorney, John Thompson.

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