City council considers charter ordinance change for hiring police chief, city clerk
The Tonganoxie City Council signaled approval of proposed measures that would change the way top city employees are appointed.
As presented at Monday's council meeting, a charter ordinance would replace the current mayoral appointment and subsequent council approval of the police chief and city clerk with a system that would have the council act on the recommendation of the city administrator. In addition, city code would be changed so that the city fire chief would be appointed in the same manner.
If the two measurers are approved, people hired to the positions would no longer be reappointed annually but stay on their jobs until they resigned or were fired.
City Attorney Mike Kelly explained the appointment of police chief and city clerk were outlined in a 1972 charter ordinance, which amended the process dictated in state statutes. Neither state statute nor a city charter ordinance addressed the fire chief, but the hiring of that position is defined in city code, he said.
Amending the charter ordinance would take a super-majority vote of the council.
Mayor Mike Vestal brought the proposal to the council, saying it would remove the possibility of politics in the hiring and retaining of the two chiefs and city clerk.
Speaking in favor of the changes, Councilmen Jason Ward and Tom Putthoff said they would take the pressure off of the mayor to make the decisions and also give the employees the security of knowing they wouldn't lose their jobs during the annual reappointment because a councilman or mayor had a personal vendetta.
Tonganoxie Police Chief Ken Carpenter said the city could see the advantage of the change if it was in place before ads for his replacement started running May 28. Some candidates wouldn't apply for a job with an annual reappointment because they wouldn’t want to risk relocating or buying a new home, he said.
Councilwoman Paula Crook was alone in expressing disapproval. The political concerns others mention hadn't been a problem in Tonganoxie, she said.
But with no one joining her in opposition, it was agreed the charter ordinance and city code change would be considered at the May 24 council meeting.
In other action, the council approved:
• A $1.07 million general obligation bond sale to fund 2010 capital improvement projects, including the Fourth Street upgrade. The winning bidder was Country Club Bank and local partner Community National Bank with a bid of 2.96 interest.
• A contract with Nowak Construction of Goddard for the BPU waterline connection project for $2.05 million, or $1 million less than the engineer’s estimate.
• A new ordinance regulating door-to-door solicitations, which makes it trespassing to visit homes or businesses with “no solicitations” signs and limiting such activity to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.