Council spars over city clerk’s position
Sparks flew and tempers flared for about 90 minutes at Monday night's Tonganoxie City Council meeting.
And by the time it was all finished, the council had voted 4-1 to retain Kathy Bard as assistant city administrator. If Bard leaves the job, it will revert to only a city clerk's position. Bard currently serves in both capacities. Council member Velda Roberts voted against the motion.
Council member Emmett Wetta got the ball rolling Monday night, as he questioned Mayor Dave Taylor's decision to advertise for applicants for the city clerk's job.
Taylor has said he asked Bard last year whether she wanted to be city clerk, but was rebuffed by her. Bard -- and several city council members -- don't remember it that way.
"What's it going to take to get this buried, Dave?" Wetta asked the mayor. "You're the one who brought it back out here. It was in the paper. It all got started again. I'd like to get this issue squared up."
"I have to appoint a city clerk in May," the mayor responded.
"Let's do it," Wetta said. ''... Why are we dragging all of this old garbage up?"
A letter written to the council by Roger and Phyllis Shilling that Phyllis Shilling read Monday night spurred Wetta's comments. The letter centered on a variety of issues, including Bard's employment with the city.
When Bard was hired -- as city clerk -- she lived in Johnson County, in violation of city policy, which required the clerk to live in Leavenworth County. A special election was held in May 2001 to allow the city clerk to live in Leavenworth County or adjoining counties, but voters turned that proposal down. Bard then was named assistant to the city administrator, all during a previous mayor's term.
And when Karen Daniels retired last year, then-mayor John Franiuk appointed Bard, who now lives in Tonganoxie, as city clerk. Daniels had held the city clerk title while Bard lived outside the city.
"How do we advertise for the position before we even talked about it?" asked council member Steve Gumm.
"I might have made a mistake on that," Taylor answered.
"I'm tired of this," Wetta said. "I'm tired of this issue. I'm not going to pay for the sins of the past."
Wetta, Gumm and council member Kathy Graveman said they don't remember any job offer that Taylor made to Bard.
"I remember you saying you would like to make Kathy city clerk," Graveman said. "And I remember there being enough question in the council members' minds that you were changing her job title."
"I offered her the job, and she said, 'I've got a job,'" Taylor said.
"I don't remember Kathy saying, 'I've got a job,'" Graveman said. "We thought you were changing her job title."
Exchanges such as those continued during the course of the council's discussion.
Roberts said she doesn't believe that the city needs an assistant city administrator, but that it does need a city clerk.
"This does not have to do with personalities," Roberts said. "Why do we need the position of assistant city administrator? I would be more than happy to have Kathy as city clerk."
Bard said the position was created to protect her, so she doesn't have to serve at the whim of the mayor.
"I felt at some point in my employment here as though I needed protection," Bard said.
Several city employees spoke up, supporting Bard, saying she does a good job for the city and has become a political football.
"It's a personal revenge," said Mary Conway, municipal court clerk and deputy city clerk. "It's a personal issue. ... She got to be the scapegoat and still continues to be. ... You're wrapping this all up to get back at (former mayor) John Franiuk and (former city administrator) Chris Eppley because they pulled the wool over your eyes. Somebody is ticked off about certain issues that Kathy had nothing to do with."
The mayor will make appointments in May, and they will be subject to council approval.