By J.R. SPARKE
HERINGTON — A transparent, legitimate and legal city government that follows the rules is what Bart Hinkle wants from the Herington City Commission.
That’s what the Herington resident said in response to a question from Mayor Robbin Bell during a regular semi-monthly meeting of the governing body Tuesday.
This was the third consecutive session in which Hinkle questioned how the city commission was doing business and how well City Manager Ron Strickland was doing his job.
Hinkle alleged the commission was at fault for not conducting written evaluations of the city manager and not working with Strickland to set job-related goals and then reviewing those goals at a later time to determine whether or not they had been achieved.
He said the governing body is obligated under the terms of Strickland’s employment contract to do those things.
Hinkle also questioned the city manager’s knowledge of the municipal codebook. The Herington resident honed in a section relating to the bonding of commissioners and the city clerk. He alleged that state statute requires a certain type of bond and specifies a minimum amount and that neither of the requirements had been met locally.
Blanket bond coverage is not acceptable, Hinkle said in quoting from state statute.
Strickland said he had recently read the pertinent section of the city codebook, and had made changes in bond coverage amounts to surpass the minimum ($5,000 per commissioner) that is required.
Mayor Bell said City Attorney Brad Jantz had advised the commission that bond coverage was at a legal level.
“I hope you’re covered for malfeasance,” Hinkle said. Malfeasance is defined by wrongdoing or misconduct by a public official.
He also questioned what the budget was for construction of a new Community Building a few years ago and whether or not the city followed a policy regarding the seeking of competitive bids.
Hinkle additionally suggested the commission seek a second legal opinion on matters, rather than relying only on Jantz’s advice.
He also suggested commissioners and Strickland admit when they make mistakes and learn from them. Otherwise, there is the perception of dishonesty, Hinkle said.
David Stroda, another Herington resident, urged the commission to rescind its recent action to give Strickland a $5,000 raise and in six months renegotiate his employment contract with the city. One of three things could occur, Stroda said. The city manager could find a “better deal” in another city, retire or the commission could terminate the employment agreement.
Stroda also addressed what he said was a rumor in the community concerning two municipal employees who were denied well-deserved merit pay raises because the monies were not in the budget. This in spite of the commission approving a sizable raise for Strickland, he added.
Mayor Bell said he didn’t know whether or not the rumor was true regarding the employees.
Herington resident Debbie Goembel distributed informational material regarding the Kansas Open Meetings Act to each commissioner, the city manager and the city attorney.
She wanted to know why the commission continued to violate the KOMA by not stating the subject to be discussed during executive sessions, which are closed to the public.
Simply stating a non-elected personnel matter or attorney-client privilege was not enough, Goembel said. The commission needed to go further and state a discussion subject as well.
City Attorney Jantz he wouldn’t respond in general terms to Goembel.
Goembel also noted she had viewed the city’s 2010-13 budgets on-line and that red tabs in four to five areas indicated possible violations of the law. An explanation on one red tab indicated the city’s expenditures had exceeded its budget authority.
Strickland said there are times, especially when federal monies are involved in a project, that paperwork runs months behind and may not be included in a budget.
Goembel said the budget should be “fixed” before it is submitted.
The city manager said the auditing firm under contract keeps city staff informed on budget matters.
Goembel also told commissioners about a new requirement for reporting employee pensions as liabilities in the city budget will become effective in 2014.
And she noted that sequestration will most likely have wide-ranging effects on the city, hospital and school district budgets. The issue needs to be addressed at this time, Goembel added.
She also criticized commissioners for what she perceived as appearing bored when being addressed by residents.
“You roll your eyes and laugh,” she said, noting these were signs of disrespect.
In another matter, an annual audit contract with the Hutchinson firm of Lindburg, Vogel, Pierce and Faris was renewed at a cost not to exceed $11,135.
Frank Lisle of Junction City asked the city to forgive $1,400 in city-assessed mowing fees on property at 318 South Fifth St. that he purchased at a Dickinson County Sheriff’s sale late last year. He said he had not been informed of the fees until he had bought the property.
Lisle said he had already paid $700 and would consider the matter settled if the city forgave the remaining $700. Commissioners agreed to do this.
Jantz also said he would check into why Lisle had not been told about the fees prior to purchasing the property.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Strickland said the city is seeking a Certificate of Authority that would allow larger unmanned aircraft to be flown at the Herington Regional Airport. However, the airport will not be one of six national test centers, he said.
The city manager additionally reported a system is being developed to inspect the Community Building before and after every use in an effort to get a handle on damage that is being reported.
Appointments to municipal boards were approved Linda Polston was appointed to the library board and Brian Schanz to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Herington City Commission’s next regularly-scheduled meeting is slated at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 16.