Consensus supports changing city of Tonganoxie’s hiring methods
Mayor Mike Vestal pulled a measure — changing the way top city employees are hired — Tonganoxie City Council members thought would be on Monday’s agenda.
Vestal, who endorsed the change at the May 10 council meeting, was absent Monday.
The mayor told The Mirror on Tuesday he pulled the measure because he was ill and wouldn’t be at the meeting.
The proposed charter ordinance would have the council act on recommendations of the city council when hiring a police chief and city clerk. Currently, the mayor makes recommendations for the council’s approval. 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 renewed annually but stay on their jobs until they resigned or were fired.
The charter resolution would require a super-majority vote of the council. That seemed more than obtainable Monday when Councilwoman Paula Crook, the only council member to voice objections two weeks earlier, said she reconsidered because she saw it didn’t prevent the council from making final decisions on the positions. She did endorse the goal of keeping politics out of the hiring of city employees, she said.
Council members agreed to put the measure on the June 14 agenda.
Two previous attempts to amend the city hiring methods in the same way failed when residents petitioned against the charter ordinance.
Councilman Jason Ward said in conjunction with that change, the council should consider a formation of professional panels to help it screen candidates for department head positions.
Ward said he would like the system to be in place for the hiring of the police chief.
Councilman Burdel Welsh, the police chief of Lake Quivira, said professional panels were routinely used to help cities hire police chiefs. They often had representatives from neighboring towns and jurisdictions, he said.
The concept got City Administrator Mike Yanez’s endorsement, especially should the charter ordinance pass at the next meeting.
“I would not want to hire a chief of police without having law enforcement people with me saying, ‘This guy isn’t what he appears to be or this guy knows what he is talking about,’” Yanez said.
The city has received 13 applications for police chief as of Monday, Yanez said.
The goal is to hire a new chief by Aug. 1.
In other business, the council:
• Directed staff to enter into negotiations to extend the city’s waste service contract with Honey Creek Disposal.
• Approved a request for proposal notice seeking a developer to partner with the city in the development of the new industrial park south of the city.
The council also rezoned the property to industrial uses.
• Reappointed LeAnn Bond to the Tonganoxie Recreation Commission.