Around Lake Lotawana, September 7, 2013
September 7, 2013
By Stephen Wagner
On Tuesday September 3rd the BOA held its September Work Session at City Hall. An agenda with several possible contentious topics were all handled with decorum and an overall interest in making progress.
One of the leading topics was the draft ordinance to give specific powers to the new City Administrator Jill Cornett. This is the ordinance that the Tribune stated would be forthcoming sooner rather than later.
The draft ordinance was prepared by the appointed City Attorney Paul Campo, and according to Mayor Welsh was a compilation (he felt) from other jurisdictions. Most of the draft ordinance appears to be open for discussion and the Aldermen may remove some specific topics.
For example, there is a clause that gives policy making powers to the City Administrator. Mayor Welsh stated that probably "wouldn’t apply here." In last week’s article, the Tribune speculated that hire and fire authority, previously asserted in BOA sessions to be within the purview of the City Administrator would not apply to department heads. That would free in particular the Chief of Police from control by an unelected official. That is great news; the City needs a Police Department free of political influence and Chief Miller deserves the opportunity to run the department unfettered.
But the City lacks a Personnel Guide. Only one ordinance speaks in general terms about employee conduct. Definitions of positions is also required and CA Cornett and City Clerk Rhonda Littrell are endeavoring to complete that task within the next month.
It readily apparent that many of the challenges facing the City government are interconnected, so several of the initiatives need to proceed in parallel. The Personnel Police Guide needs to be written to define individual employees’ duties and will then help the BOA define Ms. Cornett’s responsibilities.
This was Mayor Welsh's Facebook picture. Really!
Social media policies are also up for definition and control, and Mayor Welsh correctly deferred that topic until discussions on the personnel guide. Before moving on, Alderman Miles pointed out that the City had two issues with social media, generally defined as "on duty" and "off duty" comments. There was some side discussions regarding First Amendment rights of employees, but the remainder of the discussion was tabled.
With regard to a stipend for the Mayor and the Board, there was a short discussion about the shape and scope of the initiative. Although the Mayor initially stated that he didn’t have an opinion on the matter, he eventually divulged that he was not in favor of the stipend.
A reasonable alternative was raised by several of the Aldermen regarding a reimbursement for expenses in lieu of a stipend. One Alderman indicated that to attend that evening’s meeting, he had to employ a babysitter. Ms. Cornett spoke against that idea stating that collecting receipts and determining applicability would be time consuming for the staff. Alderwoman Rita Aholt spoke against either effort stating that serving the public brought with it some costs and that she would bear those gladly.
The final major topic of the evening was continuing concerns regarding the Lake Lotawana Sportsmen Club, and in particular lead contamination that is on the site. Alderwoman Aholt stated that DNR had issued a permit for a removal of some of the lead from the site, but Jackson County has not issued their permit yet.
There is some discrepancy in information provided by third parties, as some of the information would be reasonably termed "mutually exclusive." The Tribune will revisit the principals and present the information for public review as soon as possible.
The BOA and Mayor Welsh did a fine job Tuesday. Let’s hope it continues, as the City can only benefit.