February 9, 2016

Fotovich denies mayor’s allegations

Larry Fotovich
It’s unfortunate that two candidates withdrew from the city administrator recruitment process, but Gardner doesn’t need a chief executive who will quit at the first sign of controversy.  Better to know that sooner than later.
Although the mayor characterized the quitters as “the top two candidates,” this is only one of many errors, omissions and lapses in logic that comprised his press release.
True, one of those candidates had unanimous support amongst council members, but not with Mayor Drovetta, and by the time he finally agreed to consider the council’s wishes and make the offer, he was curiously one day too late.
The mayor claimed that this candidate withdrew because of my letter to the Gardner News.  That is not true.
The Sept.6 minutes of this candidate’s own council meeting indicate that he was offered a $10,464 pay raise in exchange for withdrawing his name from consideration for the Gardner city administrator position.  It would appear from this action that he was highly regarded by his current mayor but only reluctantly so by ours.
Regardless of what the mayor claims, we all know that comfort with one’s current employer and a nice fat raise are a tough combination to beat—especially when the city one is considering has endured five years of conflict and divisiveness.
That candidate’s withdrawal letter came nine days before the mayor issued his press release—more than enough time for the mayor to do some basic fact-checking, if he really wanted to set the record straight.
The mayor claimed that there was a breach of confidentiality which compromised the recruitment process.  That is not true.
Before any interviews took place, our recruiter assured us that every candidate who was currently employed had notified their respective governing bodies of their intent.
I have confirmed with Council Member Chris Morrow that my recollection of this statement is correct, but I encourage anyone who wants additional documentation to contact any council member or the mayor and ask them to verify the origin of the e-mail we received on Aug.4 from one of the three finalists.
That finalist sent us a “thank you” note from his city’s e-mail address, which I doubt he would have risked doing, if his employer hadn’t already known of his intentions.
You might also wonder how the governing body of the candidate who received the raise knew about his candidacy, if he had not given them prior notice.  You will recall that my letter to the Gardner News never mentioned the names of any of the finalists.
On Aug.8, a council member revealed that they had contacted a couple of sources in another city where one of the semifinalists previously worked, and they used information from that background investigation as the basis for withdrawing their support for that candidate.
Mayor Drovetta did not seem surprised or concerned by this breach of confidentiality then, nor did he issue a press release to notify the residents of the injustice.  No surprise there; it was not his candidate who was thrown under the bus.
To date, neither the mayor nor our recruiter has supplied me with a copy of the withdrawal letter from the mayor’s ringer, although I have repeatedly requested that document.  In the mayor’s last reply, he asked me why I wanted it, and then he used the exemptions of the Kansas Open Records Act as a questionable basis for keeping it and other previously accessible documents from me.
I also learned, in speaking with the recruiter, that he had not conducted any background investigations on the three finalists.  This contradicts the information we received from our human resource manager and does not comply with the contract the mayor signed with the recruiter.
When you look at news media accounts of city administrator searches in other parts of the country, you’ll frequently see the names and biographies of the candidates.  There is no attempt to keep the public in the dark about the process or the candidates’ identities.
In many cases, there are public receptions at city hall where all residents can meet the finalists and provide input to their council members as to who they like and what concerns they might have about those they don’t.
Contrast that with our process, and you’ll see a clear effort to block that broad input.  Only the “secret six” community members hand-picked by the mayor were allowed to participate, while the other 19,000 served as spectators.
I’m not sure what the mayor hopes to gain by suspending the search until spring, but rest assured, his candidate—the one whose withdrawal letter has never been seen—will be back.


  1. Judith Rogers says:

    Where will the money come from to pay the EXPENSIVE tab for Mr. Press????????? What did Press do for the city of Edgerton for the big bucks he charged? – the last I heard the city of Edgerton did not even have all of the financial records necessary to complete an audit. Why does Drovetta need Mike Press in house when we already have an interim city manager? All better be asking why Drovetta is pushing for this APPOINTMENT. Drovetta’s past records of conniving, manipulation, not being forthcoming, koolaid propaganda, etc., etc. should be strongly considered by all citizens – that is my opinion. I hate to think what he wants to continue to pursue with a guy at the helm to bring in the delivery of the done deals he wants – more of those deals that benefit the special interests but not for the citizens at large.

    Our governments entities have not been leading their people for their benefit. The people are going to have to learn to be leaders themselves because the corrupt governments and politicians are governing for the upper 1% or 10% and not for the citizens at large for years now and the sad affects are coming home to roost. You see it so clearly right here in Gardner where more and more the politicians and bureaucrats are privitizing sections of government or selling off their assets when government entities should be governing and working for the citizens to bring about the lowest of costs rather than outsourcing services or selling off the people’s assets creating even higher costs for the people with probably worse service. You add that to all of the corporate welfare that has privitized gains and socialized costs and losses and you have the mess we are living in now. You country is rotting from the inside out and it is there in living color for all to see, that is if they want to see it or perhaps those who have enriched themselves from this type of government will never tell you they see it.

  2. Judith Rogers says:

    Here is an e-mail I sent to the Gardner City Council, the School Dist. and the Jo. Co. Commissioners today. All might want to chew on this recent news.


    The following news tells you that Coleman is one of those kinds of companies who will go wherever the corrupt politicians will give them the best deal. When you govern for the special interests and not for the citizens at large, adverse results will occur. The city of Gardner, Ks. and Wichita, Ks. better hope and pray those industrial revenue bonds are paid or you and the citizens are going to have huge, expensive messes to clean up. And I don’t know that I will be able to keep myself from saying “I told you so”, however, me saying that won’t be helping the people any after you have already sold them down the river.

    Judith Rogers (see below)
    Gardner, Ks.

    Coleman Co. plans to move executive jobs out of Wichita
    Wichita Business Journal
    Date: Thursday, October 13, 2011, 2:54pm CDT – Last Modified: Thursday, October 13, 2011, 4:26pm CDT

    Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said during a news conference Thursday afternoon that he had only heard of Coleman’s plans today.

    Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer on Thursday afternoon said the city had little to no warning about the Coleman Co. Coleman Co. Latest from The Business Journals Reports: Coleman to open Denver facilityInflux of downtown projects providing a boon to local firmsWork on St. Francis will affect downtown traffic Follow this company ’s decision to move some leadership positions to the Denver area.
    Brewer said he and other city officials had heard rumors the past couple of days that something might be happening with the manufacturing company.

    But no one with the city had any direct contact with Coleman until the company scheduled a Thursday morning phone conference with the mayor and other city administrators.

    “We are disappointed that some key leadership jobs are leaving this vibrant city,” Brewer said.

    Brewer said the company has said that a “significant number” of Coleman’s 800 local workers will stay in Wichita, something he is grateful for.

    But when asked whether he was unhappy about how the situation played out, Brewer said “that’s a nice way of putting it.”

    “I’m not very happy anytime we lose jobs in the city of Wichita,” he said.

    Brewer also said the city will look at the terms of its financial assistance to the company, such as industrial revenue bonds and property tax exemptions.

    Allen Bell, the city’s urban development director, said that aid is tied primarily to capital investments made by the company. He also said that any changes to those deals won’t be made until city officials have a better idea of what exactly Coleman’s plans are.

    “We are going to look at the terms,” Brewer said. “As always we will be wise stewards of the public funds.”

    Coleman hasn’t said specifically that it’s moving its headquarters, or even how many people will be moved, Brewer said.

    But it is a concern that the headquarters are in the mix, he said, when a company begins talking about moving leadership positions.

  3. Senior too says:

    Huh? Coleman brings jobs here and you dont like it?

    Thats crazy talk

  4. What is the average wage at Coleman?

  5. and what was Mr. Press’ start date. I guess I didn’t realize he had already started.

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