Archive for Thursday, October 4, 2007

Council agrees to place appointment ordinance on ballot

October 4, 2007

Eudora voters have another decision to make Nov. 6.

In response to a protest petition circulated by Eudora City Councilman Bill Whitten and other concerned citizens, the Eudora City Council decided during a special session Monday to put a proposed charter ordinance before voters. The question will join a $45 million school bond referendum offered by Eudora USD 491 on the ballot.

The charter ordinance, which the council passed in August, allows the mayor to appoint city department to two-year terms and changes the annual date for appointments from July to May. The appointments would still have to be approved by the council.

Currently the mayor, with the consent of the council, appoints department heads for one year. City department heads include the police chief, fire chief, city clerk, city treasurer and the parks and recreation director. The city administrator would not be among those appointed to two-year terms.

Those against the ordinance collected about 75 signatures, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said. To be successful, the group only needed 40 votes, or 10 percent of the number of voters in the last election.

"I think you have some legal issues that might cost the city quite a bit really if someone was let go one year after their two-year appointment," Whitten said.

The successful protest petition gave the council the options of rescinding the ordinance, putting it before voters with the school district's bond referendum or scheduling the election for another date within 90 days.

After discussion, the council decided to piggyback onto the school bond issue.

Councilwoman Lori Fritzel asked what the school district would think of combining the questions on the ballot.

"I think they think the more voters that come out the better chances they have," Eudora City Administrator Cheryl Beatty said.

Eudora USD 491 Board of Education President Kenny Massey said the added question probably wouldn't affect the bond issue.

"I think it's probably good timing to tie into the school bond issue, knowing that there will be a considerable number of voters out for the school bond issue," Massey said. "They're probably seizing the moment and taking advantage of that."

During discussion Beatty said appointed employees could still be fired at any time if their performance suffers.

Whitten didn't attend the meeting but listened to a recorded tape of discussion afterward.

His brother, Tom Whitten, also circulated the petition and attended the meeting.

"I think it takes away from the electoral process," Tom said.

Because of the ordinance's timing, an incoming mayor would be tied to a crew that might not be the newly elected person's personal choice, Tom said.

During discussion, Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle said those signing the petition may have mistakenly thought they were doing him a favor.

Originally, Pyle said he brought the ordinance to the council as a way to improve job security for the department heads. He said the petition brought against the ordinance showed a lack of trust in his appointments.

"I think it's a slap in the face of city employees," he said.

The city will split the $3,000 cost of the election with the school district.

"This is a power play from someone who apparently wants a position in the city. That's all this all about," Pyle said.

Whitten said he has no plans to run for mayor or a city council seat during the next electoral cycle.

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