Council clarifies position on volunteers in office
The Eudora City Council on Monday clarified a decision it made in January regarding city volunteers holding city government positions.
At a Jan. 12 meeting, volunteer firefighter Tim Reazin, who now sits on the council, inquired whether he would be allowed to run for city council.
The council said it was fine for volunteers to run for office. However, it didn’t specify what would happen if a volunteer won.
On Monday night, the council voted to allow volunteers for the city to hold city government positions.
The only council member who opposed the measure was Bill Whitten, who said that in the context of the fire department, allowing the deputy chief to hold office could create a problem if the fire chief decided to leave.
Reazin abstained from voting.
Reazin recently was named deputy chief of the fire department, which is a position that has a reimbursement rate of $5,200 a year and requires him to work at least 20 hours per week. At the time he was elected, he was a lieutenant, which carried a reimbursement rate of $25 a week.
Mayor Scott Hopson requested the city attorney look into whether Reazin should be allowed to serve on the council considering his new position.
The memo stated that that are no laws in Kansas that prohibit volunteer firefighters from serving on the city council.
Councilman Jeff Peterson also noted that the voters knew Reazin, who received the second-highest amount of votes in the election, was a volunteer firefighter when they elected him.
And Reazin said he only took the deputy chief position because he was the most the most qualified and certified person and felt it would be best for the department. He also said he had no intentions of becoming fire chief and abstained from voting on fire department issues when appropriate.
Hopson then brought up the fact that Jean Farmer, who also is a crossing guard for the city, had to take a leave of absence when she ran for mayor last spring.
However, Council President Maria Nelson noted that Farmer was an employee who was paid on an hourly basis, and she was not a volunteer.
The council and the mayor then discussed the amount of money that Reazin is making in his new position, but interim City Administrator Mike Wildgen stated that the memo from the city attorney said “the level of compensation does not appear to be relevant to the analysis.”
Hopson then clarified that it wasn’t all volunteers that he didn’t think should be able to hold a city office, but rather “the guys in the white shirts” — referring to uniforms of officers on the Eudora Fire Department.
Reazin then replied that he wore a white shirt when he came to the council in January to inquire about his ability to run for office.
“I wasn’t mayor the then,” Hopson said. “As mayor and city council members, it’s our job to try to get the confidence back in the community. I think this looks bad to the taxpayer.”
Nelson then restated that taxpayers knew about Reazin’s status when they voted him into office.
“I’m not seeing the bump in the position making this a different situation than it was before,” Nelson said.
Peterson then made a motion that the employee handbook would not apply to volunteers, from and deputy chiefs on down within all departments as it applies, in regards to the incompatibility of offices.
If the fire chief were to leave or be let go, the responsibility of filling that position then would fall to the city administrator.
Later in the meeting, the council, amended rules regarding the appointment of department heads. They currently are appointed, with the approval of the council, every two years.
The policy approved stated that department heads now will serve at the pleasure of the city administrator.
Hopson brought the idea of changing the policy last April because he felt like department heads suffered from undue stress each time appointments came around.
The council also will look into how far outside the city limits department heads can live.