Archive for Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Council continues to debate responsibility for employees

January 25, 2006

The conflict continues.

Tonganoxie City Council members continue to debate whether the mayor or the city administrator should be in charge of all day-to-day work of all city employees. As it stands now, those duties are divided, to some degree.

At Monday night's council meeting, the topic arose again.

But council member Velda Roberts steered the conversation away from that topic -- saying inconsistencies in city staffers' job descriptions first must be addressed. She said it was city council members' responsibility to "make sure it is all cleaned up."

And now, the council will meet in a work session -- set for 7 p.m. Feb. 6 -- to review all city employees' job descriptions.

City Administrator Mike Yanez said Monday that he was well aware of the inconsistencies among the job descriptions. But, he said, until the larger issue of who's in charge of day-to-day operations of all city employees is settled, he saw little reason to change job descriptions.

"It does me no good to present 20 job descriptions that say 'report to the city administrator,' and the council says no, they report to the mayor," Yanez said.

Some resolution

The city council clearly is divided on the issue of who is the ultimate authority at city hall: the mayor or Yanez.

"We need to have some resolution and find some consensus -- the sooner, the better," council member Jason Ward said, agreeing to Roberts' suggestion for a work session.

During most of the discussions that the council has had on the issue, both Yanez and Mayor Dave Taylor have said little. But the silence was broken Monday night.

"I've been mayor three years, and I didn't know we had a problem," Taylor said. "All the sudden, we've got a problem. ... Mike, do you have a big problem with this, the way government is working and city employees."

Yanez said the way city law now stands, the mayor has ultimate authority over some city departments.

"What I am saying is that if I direct a department head, am I then stepping outside of my boundaries?" Yanez said.

"No, you're not," the mayor said.

"Technically, I could be," the city administrator said. "I want to feel I can work with my department heads and my department heads can work with me, without being subject to reprimand or discipline by members of the governing body."

The mayor then asked Yanez, who's been on the job about six months: "Has any of the council or the mayor ever challenged you on anything that you've done at city hall? Has the mayor come to you and said anything about city employees? I believe the mayor has said to you several times that you are the city administrator. That that's your job."

Yanez responded: "I prefer not to answer that question."

Council member Steve Gumm, who supports changing the law to ensure the city administrator is in charge of city hall, had his own question for the mayor.

"Have you had interactions with any of the department heads and directed them do to anything?" Gumm asked Taylor.

"I have not. Does that satisfy you?" Taylor asked.

If the council were to change the city's power structure, it would have to be through adoption of a charter ordinance, which allows time for review by the public.

Other action

In other matters on Monday, the council:

  • Received a letter from Phillip "Finney" Robbins, president of Midwest Carpet Center, about his interest in purchasing the city public works building, 316 Main. The public works building is just north of Midwest Carpet Center.

"We will take this under advisement and talk with the city administrator and also our city attorney, Mike Kelly," said Mayor Dave Taylor. "And our city superintendent, who is in the building.

"We'd have to evict him," the mayor added, evoking laughter from those at the meeting.

On Tuesday, Robbins said he would like to expand his business into the city building. His company is growing and he needs more room. "I think it would work well for the city and for us, but we'll have to wait and see what they think," he said.

Butch Rodgers, the city's public works director, said Tuesday that his department is crowded in that building. City officials have discussed constructing a public works building near the sewage treatment plant. "Out of sight, out of mind, so we're not down here on Main Street with all of our equipment trying to get out," he said. And the sewage treatment plant property still would be centrally located enough, Rodgers said.

  • Directed the city staff to further examine whether to construct sidewalks along the

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