Archive for Thursday, December 14, 2006

Appointment process irks councilmember

December 14, 2006

After working with him for three meetings, Bill Whitten said he approves of fellow councilman Jeff Peterson. Peterson took over Kevin Miller's seat Nov. 17.

"With the exposure I've had with him so far, I think he's going to work for the council," Whitten said.

Despite his opinion of Peterson, he isn't as happy with the circumstances surrounding the appointment, Whitten said.

Whitten was absent from a council meeting two weeks earlier when Mayor Tom Pyle released the names of five candidates under consideration for then open seat. The following week Pyle and Council President Lori Fritzel interviewed the candidates. After admitting all the applicants were qualified, Pyle tapped Peterson and made the appointment at the Nov. 27 meeting.

Both Whitten and Councilman Scott Hopson abstained from voting. Each said they didn't have enough information on the candidates to provide approval or disapproval.

Peterson's appointment process is part of a larger council issue brewing for Whitten. Citizens approached him with questions about what they perceived as lack of progress within the council, he said.

"Every time I open the newspaper, I have to hear about how we don't get anything done," Whitten said. "I figured I'll start getting all the information to show what we're doing in there."

After Pyle's appointment of Peterson, Whitten researched city ordinances to clearly define the mayor's role within the city and the council.

City ordinance stipulates the mayor appoints a councilmember in the case of an in-term vacancy with the consent of the majority of the remaining council members.

The mayor didn't give the rest of the council enough input on the decision, Whitten said.

"It's pretty much him saying we'll handle it," Whitten said.

Whitten said he noticed similar situations on the council.

"At times, I want to describe it as a dictatorship or (Pyle) wanting to have one like that," Whitten said. "It just seems like it has been progressively getting worse in my eyes."

Pyle said his role as the mayor was clear.

"I do expect respect and I don't think I've had it," Pyle said.

He said the decision to select Peterson was completely his until the time he announced the official appointment. The other councilmembers had their opportunity to voice an opinion afterward, he said.

"This is my decision, and that's exactly what I do," Pyle said.

As for not providing enough information about the candidates, everyone had the opportunity to contact them after he released their names, Pyle said.

Pyle said he understood Whitten's viewpoint, but believed he handled the Peterson situation correctly.

"He's entitled to an opinion and so am I," Pyle said.

The mayor said he noticed a culture on the council that had members voting with an eye to re-election, he said.

"It just tears me up when people vote for what's best for them," Pyle said.

Pyle said he was confident in how he votes, which was always within his conscience for the best of Eudora.

"As long as I vote my conscience, no one can criticize me," Pyle said.

Whitten made no public comment about his concerns at Monday's council meeting.

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