Archive for Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mayor apologizes for city employee maintenance on personal vehicle

But work is done after apology; mayor says he was unaware of additional work

November 26, 2008, 10:33 a.m.

Updated: December 2, 2008, 6:38 p.m.

On the morning of Nov. 25, Tonganoxie Mayor Mike Vestal wrote an e-mail apologizing to the city council for having public works employees fix his van Nov. 20 and 21 at the new Tonganoxie Public Works Facility.

Later that evening, he would have to once again explain to them why a public works employee was finishing the job at his home with city equipment.

Vestal said he had no idea someone was in his driveway working on the van.

“I can’t believe they did it,” Vestal said about the work done on his vehicle. “I was under the impression that this was going to be done about five o’clock this evening or so (after work hours).”

The problem with the mayor’s vehicle started when one of the hydraulic cylinders that lifts him into his van started leaking.

Vestal said the lift’s manufacturer told him they might not be able to get a replacement part, and that he might be better off getting the cylinder rebuilt locally.

For Vestal, a quadriplegic who has been in a wheelchair for nearly 40 years, his van is his only source of transportation.

That’s when Vestal called Butch Rodgers, the city superintendent, and asked about local companies that could fix the cylinder. Vestal said Rodgers was to take a look at the van during his lunch period and when he was having trouble with it, Rodgers took the van to the city shop.

“I was just desperate and when people are desperate they do things without thinking,” he said about having Rodgers help him fix his vehicle.

The vehicle stayed in the shop overnight and Friday morning Tonganoxie City Council member Paula Crook, acting on a tip she received the night before, went to the shop. When she arrived after 8 a.m. she said she saw some public works employees working on the van.

“We were entrusted by the citizens to do the right thing and you can’t take your personal vehicle down there and ask for the city crew to work on it,” Crook said. “And the city crew should have known it was a no-no.”

She immediately called Mike Yanez, the city administrator, to report what she had seen. When Yanez arrived at the shop he said the van still was in the building when he arrived, but no employee was working on it. He told the crew to remove the vehicle from the building.

“It was an error in judgment and we took care of it immediately,” Yanez said in the morning of Nov. 25. “There weren’t any repercussions other than just a counseling that we don’t work on personal equipment for any elected, appointed or hired city official.”

However, at around 2:30 p.m. Nov. 25 a city vehicle left the mayor’s residence after finishing the work.

Vestal said he had left the van keys in the driver-side visor because he couldn’t use it and from his room — one floor up and on the opposite end of the driveway — he couldn’t hear anybody working on the vehicle.

While Vestal was remorseful for the van being taken to the public works building, he was insistent that he had no knowledge of what was happening in his driveway.

“I am not going to take the heat for this one this time,” he said. “I did not know they were out here.”

During Monday’s city council meeting, Vestal once again apologized for the incident.

Councilmember Jason Ward also spoke on the subject and said Tonganoxie was a great place because neighbors helped one another, but city workers and elected officials needed to be careful and not take advantage of city resources.

“I think it all goes back to following protocol,” Ward said. “We live in a small town where all of us know each other and many of us that work together are friends. We a have to make sure that as we work together we follow protocol and we are not encroaching on the expenditure of city funds or time.”

In September 2007, Vestal made a public apology during a city council meeting after he had forwarded an e-mail containing a picture of a topless woman and a joke about Martin Luther King Jr. Day.


Jason Bailey 9 years, 6 months ago

Vestal has been am embarrassment to the city for quite some time now. At best, this most recent infraction in judgment (which appears to be habitual) reveals a mind that does not think beyond the immediate need; at worse, this situation could be a quid pro quo on the part of the mayor and the Public Works office.

When will the city council realize that Vestal has done absolutely nothing to help the city and begin the process to submit a recall vote to the citizens?


Trouble 9 years, 6 months ago

I agree with jason2007 the Mayor has done nothing to help the city but he is very good about making the city look stupid. Maybe the readers need to Google Michael Vestal and go to page 5 look at chat with Tonganoxie Mayor Mike Vestal, and see what egirl8250 has to say about our Mayor of Tonganoxie. I wounder if he knows a girl named Dawn Marie Flewelling? If he does and did what she is said he did,Shame on him.


AtPeace 9 years, 6 months ago

You know, no matter what the history is or what is going on, it is a good person who helps their fellow neighbor in need. Whether he is the Mayor or not he needed help and Butch and his guys tried to help him. How many of you have been on the side of the road with a flat tire or a dead car and someone pulled over and helped you out? And what kind of people are you, who would say, I have the ability to help but it's not my problem so I'm not going to help. This town is too small to have this ugly politics going on. It's not like Mayor Vestal could just call the rental car service to rent a van while his was in the shop.


rosebud 9 years, 6 months ago

I fill you should help anyone that you can and we try. But there are times that you can't. I have three little kids and there dad and I both work full time all the time. When I hear things like this, the Mayor who I voted for called the city to fix his van. That upset me a lot. Our taxes pay these wages. Having them work on the Mayor's van took them away from things that needed to be done in the city. Which there was a water leak in the street and it took the city three weeks to start to fix it. There a tire in fount of the park and I bet they didn't stop and pick it up. At our jobs we can't stop and go help our friends. We are trying to pay for our home. The taxes we have to pay in this town are out of this world. Then trying to put food on the table and pay for utilities, doctor bills, My car broke down and had to be fixed last week now my husband's truck is in the shop. Who know what that going to cost? We don't get the special treatment were we can call the city to work on our car or truck or can we? Nor should the Mayor! We depend on our vehicles to get to and from work, drop the kids off at school and then pick them up. So Mayor Vestal you were wrong and I'm disappointed in you. You should be doing things that helps our city not your self. You should have taken the van to the shop like we do or have a friend like Butch Rodgers come to your home after he is not at work to fix this van. You need to be a better Mayor and think of people like my family who are having a very had time trying to live in this town. Stop thinking about just your self. Your our Mayor for God sakes be one that I can be proud of.


Sissy 9 years, 6 months ago

I too have three kids, my youngest is a quadriplegic. God blessed us with this child. We have a Van with a lift on it, to get Matt in and out of the van. The Van make it easy for us to go anywhere. Our Van has broken down many many times and we had to use our other vehicle to be able to go any where! It was hard and very inconvenient, but we do it. We take our van to the mechanic shop and it is not cheep especially when we have three kids. My husband and I both work. We too are buying our home and we believe that the taxes we pay for, is almost more then we can handle. But we do it. We have family and friends who help us. Thank God for that. I Voted for this Mayor and it upset me to hear him make so many excuses of why he called the city to work on his van. Every one has desperate times.This is our Mayor if he makes this kind of decision in desperate times what kind of decision is he making for our city? Why shouldn't there be any repercussions. The Mayor knew it was wrong and the city worker knew it was wrong. I don't understand this. Is this what people mean when they say this is a small town? If so We lived in a small town and this kind of stuff did not happen. People in Johnstown CO help one another all the time but the city would have never let the tax payers pay for the city work force to do this on city time, lunch or breaks and I know this because I worked for the city. I have never seen a city miss use city funds like this town. That allows the Mayor to do what he wants to and city workers do what they want. What kind of Administration do we have down there? That won't hold anyone accountable for any thing. Yes this is a small town but there is the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do and city of Tonganoxie we live in seems to want to do the wrong thing most of the time. So Mayor of Tonganoxie we did entrust you to be our leader so shape up or step out of office. Maybe I will run for office.


avoiceofreason 9 years, 6 months ago

It's called personal responsibility. He was wrong to abuse his position and should pay for the city's time. But on the other hand Crook needs to get a life. I wish I had the kind of free time to make this an issue.... But I'm to busy working to pay these idiot's wages!


rosebud 9 years, 6 months ago

Personally I like councilwoman Crook. You can't shoot the messenger! I thought that we as citizens are to call our council members about issue we have with the city? She is just doing her job and it is probably not easy... exspeacilly having to call about the Mayor. I say hang in there! You have my support.


commonsense 9 years, 6 months ago

I can't believe this is a story, Mayor Vesrtal has been a loyal servant of the city for many years. Butch Rogers is his friend and any of us might ask a friend for help. Mrs. Crook get a life and quit running for reelection, all you are doing is aggrivating us. Lets give our city servants a salary for the time they put in for our cityand maybe we wouldnt need to repair our old vehicles or ask our friends for help.


Trouble 9 years, 6 months ago

Sounds like one of the city council member wants the city to start paying for being a servant to the city. That's using common sense!! We election you. You vote your self to get paid. What the differents... go have the city work on your vehicles or get paid. Looks like we are paying you city servants by your sneaking around using city workers on city time and city propery. You need to use your commonsense!!


JeepTJ 9 years, 6 months ago

Its all about who you are and who you know in Tonganoxie. Its ok for some of Tongies finest to violate traffic laws while harassing thier neighbors for violating the very same ordinances. The list goes on...Once again the Mayor has stepped in it and the City Attorney will help to brush it under the carpet.


andyp 9 years, 6 months ago

It's been one thing after another with this mayor. I might not be surprised if this were Chicago, but it is not.

I second the recall and will assist in any way possible.

I only hope the good mayor has learned how to properly send emails.......


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