What’s been labeled a “call to arms” on local social media has been launched in support of Jim Pruetting, Gardner police chief, and the police department.
In a sponsored social media post, Lee Moore, councilman, urged residents to write e mails supporting Pruetting to tell him his work is appreciated.
Typically social media posts that are “sponsored” are targeted ads/posts, and paid for to boost readership within a certain area.
According to Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo, public information officer, Gardner does not know the reason for the social media post regarding Pruetting, and the city is not paying for the sponsored posts.
In response to why Pruetting needed support, and if there were personnel issues, Marshall-Oquendo responded, “We can’t discuss personnel issues.”
The issue seems to stem from the council’s Jan. 3, 2017, meeting when Rich Melton, councilman, suggested the police chief no longer be required to report to the city administrator. A working document on personnel policies from Pruetting to Alan Abramovitz, human resources manager, was released by Pruetting and displayed by Melton. Comments made during the meeting by Abramovitz suggested releasing the document had lessened his trust in Pruetting. The meeting appears in its entirety on the city’s website.
Under a Kansas Open Records request, The Gardner News received copies of the e mails that Moore had requested residents write to his city email.
As a result of the KORA request, about 40 e mails were provided by Gardner officials; several were from police officers, members of the Citizen’s Police Advisory Commission, and Pam Stranathan, USD 231 superintendent.
In response to one resident’s comment that Abramovitz’s Jan. 3 comments were unprofessional, Moore writes, “I completely agree with your sentiment.“
After saying that he was outraged by Chris Morrow, mayor’s, response during the meeting, Moore writes, “I have also since been sorely disappointed by the City Administrator’s exceedingly poor handling of the incident behind the scenes.“
Further Moore states in the email that, bolstered by overwhelming support for Pruetting and the Gardner Police Department, “I will be working with the other members of the Council to see that this situation is made right.”
According to Gardner municipal code the administrator acts as the primary personnel officer. In addition to pay increases, advancements and job descriptions, the administrator also makes recommendations to the mayor and city council concerning appointment and removal of department heads.
A contract with Cheryl Harrison-Lee, city administrator, was approved by the current council last year. According to municipal code the police chief is under the administrative supervision of the city administrator.
During the Jan. 3 meeting, a member of the CPAC indicated an informal poll had been conducted among CPAC members, and that the majority preferred an independent police department; however, mention of such a discussion does not appear in any of CPAC’s minutes, nor is it on any of the agendas. According to the city’s website, there were no meetings between September, 2016, and Jan. 31, 2017.
In response to several comments at the January meeting regarding insufficient funding of GPD, information presented by Kristina Harrison, councilmember, GPD’s salary budget increased about $567,000 since 2011.
Pruetting was hired about two years ago, and his base salary is $101.900, according to city staff.
Also on Harrison’s budget handout, spending has increased in training, equipment, vehicles and uniforms since 2011. The department’s current budget is almost as much as it was before the city’s fire department became part of the fire district; with the fire department (Gardner Public Safety), the total budget in 2011 was $2,737,000, and without fire employees it now stands at $2,654,000.
Two closed council sessions were held by the council at the Jan. 17 meeting, but no official action was taken publicly. Councilman Rich Melton was absent from that meeting and at the Feb. 6 meeting questioned why he was not allowed to participate by phone.