Archive for Thursday, June 1, 2000

Council seeks ethics code; Pyle won’t oblige

June 1, 2000

Eudora City Councilman Tom Pyle said Tuesday he would never sign a document making it a violation for him to discuss city matters that take place in the confidence of executive session.

"I'm not a priest. I didn't take a vow that I wouldn't say something," he said. "If it comes down to what's best for Eudora, believe me, I'm going to talk."

The city council was expected to discuss adopting a code of ethics Wednesday night in light of Pyle's allegations to The Eudora News that members of the council last month pressured him in executive session into voting to eliminate the position of city superintendent Bill Harlow.

Pyle accused council member Dan Gregg of threatening to push an effort to fire police chief Bill Long, too, if Pyle didn't go along with other council members on Harlow's dismissal.

Gregg denied the allegations.

"The people in this town who know Tom know he's an idiot," Gregg said. "Most people take Tom for what he is."

Last week, Gregg said he would take the matter to the Kansas League of Municipalities, which he did only to find that there are no real penalties for a council member speaking on what takes place in executive session.

"It would be a real good idea for us to find a way to make something like this not happen again," Gregg said. "We have to put some teeth into a law that will make someone think twice before talking about what happens in executive session.

"When discussing somebody else's job, that's nobody else's business."

Many cities, including nearby DeSoto, have codes of ethics, which prevent council members from talking about things taking place in executive session with penalties ranging from censure to removal of office.

"We need to conduct ourselves better after executive session," said Eudora Mayor Fred Stewart, who asked for the topic to be at the top of the agenda for Wednesday's meeting. "What goes on in executive session has to stay in executive session. That's the way it's supposed to be."

Pyle acknowledged there are times when executive session is necessary. During those few times, he said, what takes place behind closed doors should remain among council members.

Gregg said conducting any kind of business in executive session might be difficult now that Pyle has broken the silence.

"I personally won't be able to discuss anything in executive session because the confidence has been breached," Gregg said. "That's not good for city government. It will have an impact on how this city is run."

However, some of the things Pyle has witnessed in executive session he said needed to be brought into the public light.

"There are too many things going on back there that are disruptive to other people's lives," he said. "What happened to Bill Harlow won't happen again not as long as I'm still on the council. I won't agree to a code of ethics, particularly if it's binding in what you can and can't say."

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