Archive for Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mayor Pyle rescinds administrator’s suspension, reimburses three days pay

October 26, 2006

In response to a letter of grievance filed by Eudora City Administrator Cheryl Beatty, Mayor Tom Pyle announced Monday he would rescind last month's three-day suspension of the city administrator with instructions she receive pay back for the missed days.

On Sept. 11, the council voted 3-2 to suspend Beatty for three days for what was deemed inappropriate use of the city's e-mail system. Councilmen Scott Hopson, Bill Whitten and Kevin Miller -- who resigned Monday from the council -- voted for the suspension.

Before and after Pyle read his letter into the record, the meeting was laced with discussion of the suspension and a story in the Oct. 19 The Eudora News concerning council members responses to the action. City Attorney Mike Book interrupted the discussion on at least two occasions to warn the topics should be subject of an executive session, as was eventually the case.

The first public mention of the suspension came at Whitten's request.

Referring to last week's story, Whitten asked Pyle, councilman Dan Gregg and councilwoman Lori Fritzel about information they had concerning Beatty's suspension.

In the story, Gregg said information came to light that made him believe Beatty was unfairly punished.

"I would just like to have the information you have," Whitten said to Gregg.

Gregg refrained to speak publicly to Whitten about what he learned.

"I would have to communicate with you outside of the meeting," Gregg said.

City Attorney Mike Book cautioned the council about exchanging information on a personnel matter in public session, recommending the matter be discussed in executive session.

Despite Book's warning, Pyle had a quick answer to Whitten's question about allegations made in the story of bullying tactics seen in executive session.

"It won't take very long. All I've got to tell is what I witnessed," Pyle said.

Asked by Whitten if he had bullied her, Beatty said he had not.

The issue came up again later in the meeting when Hopson asked for a clarification of the city's computer policy.

"I was trying to make sure I have this policy in my head straight," Hopson said.

Hopson asked if Beatty provided the policy to the city.

Beatty said she did, and it was a standard policy drafted by the Kansas League of Municipalities.

When Hopson asked for an exact reading of the policy, Beatty referred him to the city's employee handbook.

Pyle broached the issue for a final time when he read his letter. He said Beatty's contract provides grievances against her be decided by the mayor as her supervisor.

Pyle wrote he reversed the suspension in part because, "the city council took action without hearing your side of the issue and without having seen the e-mail copies."

Pyle stated in the letter that he felt the offending e-mails should have been produced for the council before it took action.

According to the letter, he also reversed the decision because, "after looking at the e-mail copies, I do not believe that they were accurately described to the city council prior to the time the council took action."

After studying the grievance letter and the copies of the e-mails, Pyle concluded either the e-mails weren't in violation of the city's policy or were very minor.

After Pyle finished reading the letter, Hopson asked him if he remembered seeing the e-mails provided during executive session.

"As I recall about six or eight of them," Pyle said.

Hopson then asked if Pyle started an investigation to see if the e-mails did come from Beatty's computer.

Pyle said he had asked Police Chief Greg Dahlem if he could trace their origins. The chief acknowledged he had started an investigation before Book again warned against discussing the issue in open session.

As discussion progressed, Pyle reiterated the council didn't have enough access to the e-mails.

"You were the only one that was given privy to the copies. That's all I'm going to say," Pyle said.

Later, Hopson explained he got the e-mails from a department head within the city and brought them to the council because he saw that as his duty as a councilman.

"They don't trust the mayor. They don't want to go to the mayor," Hopson said.

Other than that, Hopson said he didn't know what motivated the department head.

"Tom, I'm a city councilman and I bring this thing, but I can't read minds," Hopson said.

The department head asked him to bring the e-mails straight to the meeting so minds couldn't be made up beforehand.

Nonetheless, the appropriate chain of command should have been respected, Fritzel said.

Hopson defended the severity of the suspension by saying a written warning to educate Beatty of the policy would have been moot because she helped bring the policy to the city.

The council went into executive session and took no action on the discussion.

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