Archive for Friday, April 6, 2007

Suspension revoked for assistant city administrator

April 6, 2007

Kathy Bard is back on the job.

After spending Thursday suspended with pay, Bard was back at Tonganoxie City Hall resuming her duties as assistant city administrator.

"I felt like walking up and down Fourth Street with a sign that said 'I have a job,'" Bard said, referring to downtown Tonganoxie. "I've done nothing wrong."

Bard said City Administrator Mike Yanez called her about 8 p.m. Thursday. He was directed by the council to tell her the suspension was revoked, but that an investigation was ongoing.

Mayor Dave Taylor, who suspended Bard Thursday morning, called a special meeting that night at Tonganoxie City Hall. The council met in executive session for nearly two hours to discuss nonelected personnel. When it adjourned, just before 8 p.m., the council announced that no action was taken.

Council members declined to speak about the executive session after the meeting.

On Friday, when asked about Bard being back on the job, Taylor declined to comment.

"It's still a personnel matter and I'm referring all calls to Mike Kelly," Taylor said about the city's attorney.

Kelly only acknowledged that Bard had returned to City Hall.

"Kathy's back at work, that's about the most I can tell you," Kelly said.

Taylor handed down the suspension in the final days of his tenure as mayor. He lost a re-election bid to challenger and former city council member Mike Vestal by 24 votes Tuesday.

Taylor's last day as mayor will be Monday. The regular city council meeting begins at 7 p.m.

When asked whether the issue would be discussed further at the meeting, Kelly said "probably so."

Bard said she was at work Thursday morning when Taylor, with Kelly by his side, informed Bard that she was suspended with pay because of an investigation.

"He asked for my key and locked it," Bard said about Taylor locking her office door.

Bard said Friday that the investigation surrounded a liquor excise tax. Thursday, she told The Mirror she was unsure what the investigation regarded. But Friday, fellow employees at city hall, who were present when Taylor suspended her, told her that the suspension, according to Taylor, regarded a liquor tax.

When establishments apply for liquor licenses, that triggers the state to invoke the liquor excise tax. For more than a year, the state has appropriated a portion of that money from Helen's Hilltop, which is about two miles west of the city limits, to Tonganoxie. in 2005, the state made excise tax reports available to municipalities. Bard requested a copy and noticed that Tonganoxie was receiving tax money, through the state, from Helen's Hilltop. Bard said she asked a field investigation officer with the Kansas Department of Revenue about the issue. The official advised Bard that tax should go to Tonganoxie because it's based on locality, not municipality. If the tax didn't go to the city, it would go to the county because it is in the county.

The tax is a 10 percent charge on liquor by the drink. City's receive less than 50 percent of that money back from the state. The money is split evenly between a city's general fund and parks fund. If Tonganoxie's population exceeds 5,000, the town would be considered a second-class city. Under that status, the revenue would be split three ways and would also include alcohol services, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Tonganoxie's population is about 3,700.

Bard said she's not heard from the state whether the excise tax even is an issue. Even if it's found to be an error, it's easily fixable, she said.

"It isn't a really big deal," Bard said. "If the state has made an error that was not appropriated to us, they send us a letter and let us know and we'll give the money back (to the state).

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