Archive for Thursday, July 14, 2005

City Council retains Arnold, lets Boyer go

July 14, 2005

Halfway through Monday's Eudora City Council meeting as the council was secluded in executive session, Bobby Arnold walked around in what he called "a fog."

The Eudora Parks and Recreation Director had just heard a series of statements of support during the public comment portion of the meeting before a standing-room only crowd at City Hall. Led by Arnold's friend Robert Smoot, eight concerned citizens appealed to the council on Arnold's behalf.

Arnold passed from group to group thanking them and waiting on the decision that would ultimately decide his job.

"It's fifty/fifty. It's hard to read what will happen," Arnold said. "I'll be ready for either one."

When the council returned, Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle read the list of appointed positions. Eudora resident Michelle Miller was on the list for Arnold's position. On a 3-2 vote, Miller's appointment failed and Arnold was retained. Council members Bill Whitten, Lori Fritzel and Dan Gregg voted to retain Arnold.

This marked the end of three weeks of uncertainty for Arnold, and for the handful of other city positions up for reappointment Monday night.

Although Arnold survived after being told he would not be retained by Pyle weeks ago, other appointees didn't fare as well. Former City Superintendent Jim Boyer didn't gain reappointment, also by a 3-2 margin, his job was offered to longtime Eudora resident Delbert Breithaupt. Council members Scott Hopson, Whitten and Kevin Miller voted to appoint Breithaupt to the position.

"I'm not sure why the city superintendent was let go," said former council member Rex Burkhardt. "There were no complaints about his performance."

Questions how city employees were evaluated and what information led to council members' decisions drew comments from the concerned citizens that gathered in favor of Arnold, and others.

During the meeting, citizens were told the city administrator evaluates Eudora's appointed positions. Legal constraints limit how much city council members can say about city personnel issues unless they are in an executive session, council members said.

These limitations hampered what the council could tell the gathered citizens.

Pyle told the crowd that he has heard several complaints over the years concerning the appointees but could not go into specifics.

"As you know, our hands are tied," Pyle said before the council left for the executive session.

One citizen suggested the council wait for new City Administrator Cheryl Beatty to start her duties before making the appointments. Beatty is scheduled to start Monday.

Pyle pointed out that because of state statutes, such a delay would be impossible.

When the city council left for the session, nearly the entire crowd at City Hall remained.

One of the biggest concerns both during the break and after centered on the council's direct role in annually appointing the heads of city departments. It was a practice Gregg said he opposed when it was introduced several years ago.

"I don't like appointed department heads," he said. "I think it's totally unfair we can dismiss two exemplary employees that have blemish-free records."

He said he couldn't discuss official personnel records, but both Arnold and Boyer were great employees.

"I want the appointments to end," he said. "These people will become city employees and will either keep their job or lose their job based on their own merits."

Following Gregg's statement, Lori Fritzel said she also supported the incumbents, pointing out that timing of the change was bad with a new city administrator starting Monday.

"She's going to have her hands full with the day-to-day operations," Fritzel said.

Although the appointee system was under fire by Gregg and others, Mary Dahn, who regularly attends council meetings with a video camera, still thought it was a good idea.

"I don't have a problem with appointments because you vote in the person who will, in your opinion, run the city in the direction you want it to go," she said.

When the Council returned from the break and read results of the appointments, the crowd cheered when the council confirmed the result of the parks and recreation director. This forced Pyle to call order to the crowd.

Pyle made it known that Arnold was not his appointee, but neither he nor the council could fire him. Arnold's position would be in the hands of Beatty.

"He will be working directly for her and not us," Pyle said.

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