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Council member taken to task

Staff writer

City council member Ruth Herbel was taken to the woodshed Monday by both a future city council member and mayor David Mayfield.

Councilman-elect Zach Collett said during public comment time that Herbel had cited only part of a city code when she objected two weeks ago to hiring lawyer Brian Bina as city attorney and warned that city code requires the actual city attorney, not an associate, to attend council meetings.

Collett said he had read the code and that the code requires the attorney to attend meetings only when the council requests. He said Herbel had caused public mistrust and contention and should have cited the entire code.

Later in the meeting, Mayfield asked Herbel why she didn’t read the entire code.

Herbel made her original comments before a split vote two weeks ago to hire Bina as city attorney with associate, Zachary Strella, attending meetings. Bina said Monday that although Strella would attend routine meetings, he planned to deal with any complex issues that arise.

After Herbel’s questions two weeks ago, Mayfield moved to suspend city code and hire Bina.

“I had to say the city code was suspended,” Mayfield said, even though there appears to be no legal method of doing so.

Mayfield went on to complain about things Herbel has said during earlier meetings.

“In the past, you’ve said other inaccurate things,” he said.

He claimed she had “inaccurately reported” that Dollar General had an agreement with the city that no competitors would be allowed in the industrial park, when the agreement only applied to a portion of the park.

The issue is not clear. One section of the agreement says the restriction applies to only one section of the industrial park, but another section says that limitation on the agreement is not binding.

Mayfield also accused Herbel of telling an attorney for the League of Kansas Municipalities that the county had given the city land for its industrial park.

He accused her of not giving city officials a heads-up about her questions.

“That needs to stop,” Mayfield told her. “That needs to stop right now.”

Mayfield said that in the future, city administrator Roger Holter is to bring copies of the city code, personnel manual, zoning regulations, financial policy, and code of administrative procedures to meetings so anything can be looked up.

Mayfield told Herbel to tell Holter in advance whenever she intended to bring up city codes or policies so the council could research them before the meeting.

“I’m really disappointed with Dave that he took me to task in front of the public,” Herbel later said.

The discussion should have been held in an executive session, she said.

In a social media exchange between Herbel and Mayfield on Tuesday, Herbel wrote:

“Mr. Collett, city councilor elect, stated at last night’s council meeting that city code 1-311 was not read in its entirety, which caused mistrust. All I’m asking is the city abide by law.

“Mr. Collett should have done his research more in depth. City code 1-311 states: ‘City attorney shall attend meeting of the governing body when so directed to attend by the governing body.

“Keep in mind that ‘shall’ means mandatory.

“The request for qualifications which was sent to all prospective attorneys stated within the scope of services bullet, ‘City attorney functions are: Attend all regular council meetings plus occasional special meetings or work session as needed which enforce city code.

“City code 1-311 states city attorney shall attend meetings of the governing body when so directed to attend by governing body. So one would assume that the city council expects the appointed attorney to attend the council meetings.

“The city attorney has in the past attended all meeting unless for a valid reason was excused. Even the past city attorney agreed that the code needed to be changed in order to appoint one attorney, then allowing him to send a substitute in his place to council meetings.

“So Mayor Mayfield suspended the city code in order to appoint Brian Bina as city attorney. Last night, Mr. Bina introduced Mr. Strella as his replacement.

“Mayor Mayfield also stated that staff would be asked to bring codes, resolution, ordinance, and zoning books to all meetings. Maybe we will finally research and learn something. If codes, resolutions, ordinances, and zoning is in place, let’s use them. I am sure there will be questions in the future.”

Mayfield’s response:

“I didn’t suspend the city code so Mr. Bina could be appointed as city attorney. I made a motion to suspend city code 1-311 because you stated in the council meeting that the city attorney shall attend all city meetings and it needed to be changed.

“After research it was found that it was not shared with the council that the full sentence stated that the city attorney shall attend meetings of the governing body when so directed to attend by the governing body so, I made a motion at our last meeting to reinstate city code 1-311 since there was absolutely no reason to suspend it in the first place.

“It had nothing to do with who we appointed.”

Herbel’s response:

“The point was not about who we appointed, but who was to attend the meetings: the person that was appointed or a substitute. The request for qualifications reinforces the city code 1-311.”

In other business Monday, council members voted to give $100 Christmas bonuses to all full-time employees.

“The firefighters would not qualify because they are volunteers,” city clerk Tiffany Jeffry said.

Last modified Dec. 1, 2021

 

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