Archive for Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Majority of city council against advertising for clerk

April 7, 2004

Mayor Dave Taylor's request to advertise for a city clerk has fueled questions from council members.

Three council members said they aren't in favor of advertising for the clerk's position -- and two members said they were surprised the issue came up.

Steve Gumm said he thought a decision to advertise for a clerk would have come after discussing the issue with the council.

"From my experience on city council, whenever we advertise for anything new as a city council, we approve that," Gumm said. "This seems to be different for some reason."

Emmett Wetta, who could not attend the last council meeting, said he was surprised by the news.

"That one caught me totally by surprise," Wetta said. "I was at work at the last council meeting. That one kind of blindsided me."

Assistant city administrator Kathy Bard, who also serves as city clerk, was appointed by former Mayor John Franiuk last spring to take over when Karen Daniels retired. Daniels' last day with the city was April 30.

The new council and mayor took office on April 14.

Taylor recently questioned the legality of Bard serving as city clerk because she was appointed by Taylor's predecessor -- not by Taylor.

But Wetta disagrees, citing the city attorney's opinion.

"I think Kathy is still the legal clerk just from everything Mike Crow's told us and since the mayor has failed to appoint a new clerk she's still acting in a temporary position," Wetta said. "But she's done a good job, I've thought."

He said he sees no reason to advertise for a new clerk.

But council member Velda Roberts, said while she appreciates Crow's opinion, she's not satisfied.

"I do have some concerns and questions about the positions of city clerk," Roberts said. "I personally am not sure that the previous mayor had the authority to appoint the city clerk when he did, which was before there was a vacancy created.

"And actually the vacancy that was created, Mayor Taylor is right, occurred during his term as mayor."

Roberts said she has issue with not only the city clerk issue, but the assistant city administrator position.

"I'm interested in clarifying the fact that we do or do not have a lawfully appointed city clerk," Roberts said. "And I also believe that it has increased the cost to the taxpayers by adding a position of assistant city administrator to the city payroll."

Bard was appointed by Franiuk as city clerk in October 2000, but at the time she lived in Johnson County. A 1984 city ordinance required appointed officials be Leavenworth County residents.

Citizens then voted in May 2001 to reject a charter ordinance that would have allowed appointed officials be citizens of Leavenworth County or surrounding counties.

Franiuk then appointed Karen Daniels, who was a county resident, to be city clerk. Bard then was hired to a new position -- assistant city administrator.

Roberts does not agree with that hire because she said a job was created for someone.

But Gumm said he was content with the position as it stands now.

"We have no excess payroll funds available for a city clerk above and beyond what the assistant city administrator is being paid," Gumm said.

And for Gumm, Bard's work is not in question.

"From my experience in city government, no one who I've ever had dealings with in the same capacity that Kathy has does a better job or has more knowledge," Gumm said. "And it's a shame that she's had to go through all the turmoil that she's been subject to over the last 10 months on this issue -- and even prior to that."

Council member Ron Cranor said he thought the city clerk issue was a strange one when the new council came into power. But that's in the past, he said, adding that he's not in favor of advertising for the job.

"I don't disagree that early on there was some controversy, but that's history and it's time to move on," Cranor said.

Roberts said her issues are not with Bard personally, but the position.

"I personally am not after anyone's job and I think it's a shame that the whole issue has gotten to the point that has," Roberts said. "It's a very controversial issue with members of the council and also with people within the community.

"I do think we have a problem with the position at city hall, but it is not the position of city clerk. It's the position of assistant city administrator."

Kathy Graveman was the only council member who refused to comment, saying she didn't think it was appropriate at this time.

The council's next meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday.

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