Special to The Gardner News
Gardner city council held back to back meetings on Feb. 20 at Gardner city hall. A council work session was held at 5:30 p.m., followed by the regularly scheduled council meeting at 7p.m.
Change governing structure
The topic of the work session was the police department reporting structure. Four professionals offered council their thoughts, followed by discussion.
The four presenters were: Mike Press, local government consultant (who once served as interim city administrator for Gardner), Ken Sissom, mayor of Merriam and JoCo Regional Police Academy director, Terry Norwood, Midwest Public Risk president/CEO, and Benjamin Hart, vice president, assurance services – Allen Gibbs & Houlik.
Frank Denning, retired Johnson County Sheriff was scheduled but was unable to attend.
Press began by describing the system of governance known as Policy Governance.
“It has been proven to be the most effective, efficient and accountable approach to government,” he said.
Press read a quote from a policy governance book, that he said was adopted as a manual by many cities.
“The city counci’ls official link to the operations of city government and staff is through, and solely through, the city administrator. All authority and accountability of staff, as it pertains to the council, is considered sole authority and accountability of the city administrator.”
Sissom said all the department heads in Merriam report to the city administrator. He indicated it was good for department heads to have a single individual to report to, rather than having multiple bosses.
He said the Merriam council was made up of a varied group of people but, none of them have the background in personnel management, H.R., and all the things you need to be a professional city administrator.
He stressed the importance of treating all departments equally.
“It’s important that there be equality with all the department heads. You shouldn’t place one department above the other. If you bring one person out of the control of the administrator and put them directly under the council, that’s exactly what you’re doing. That creates dissension between department heads,” he said.
“It’d be a unique arrangement. It might work, but I would say the opportunity for bad things to happen are increased,” said Sissom.
Benjamin Hart, of Allen, Gibbs & Houlik, discussed the topic from the perspective of auditing firms. Allen, Gibbs & Houlik provides professional auditing services for the city of Gardner.
Hart said firms perform evaluations of governing structure and internal controls. They want to know who answers to who. They want accountability.
“Governing structure matters,” he said.
Terry Norwood specializes in risk management services. His company represents 180 public entities across Missouri and Kansas.
“This is one you want to educate yourself on as much as you can, because it’s just too important,” Norwood advised.
“Whatever you decide, remember you’re deciding for those who come behind you. And they can change things too…”
Norwood spoke of the importance, and difficulty, of maintaining long term consistency.
“The city manager form of government, executive form of government, has always acted as that buffer between the councils and the changes and variety of opinion, inconsistency…,” he said.
Norwood also told council that if the police reported to them, they would be opening themselves to personal liability risks.
“By interjecting yourself into the picture, you just created liability where none exists. You should be aware of that,” said Norwood.
In discussion after the presentations, Rich Melton, council member, cited vehicle replacements as one of the things that needed to be improved.
Press replied, “The question is, if you’re not pleased with managerial things, do you want to involve yourself in managerial things, or do you just want it to change”?
Melton said he honestly just wanted to see it fixed.
“OK. I think we could propose a better way to fix it,” said Press.
Council approved appointment of Kraig LaRosh and reappointed Blayne Camp to the Airport Advisory Board. Clint Barney was reappointed to the Utility Advisory Board.
Council accepted easements on Final Plat for Sante Fe Self Storage expansion.
Ordinance No. 2541 was passed, approving the Electric Service Standards.
A resolution establishing a schedule of fees and charges in the Gardner Municipal Code was approved.
Larry Powell, business and economic development director, updated council on area developments. CVS expects to break ground in May or June. DQ project is complicated and will go before Planning Commission on the 28th. Bill George KIA new and used cars is now expected to open in March or April.
Council went into executive session at 8:30 p.m., the last item on the agenda. Kristy Harrison, council member, had participated in the public meeting by phone. Before entering executive session, council had consensus that she would be allowed to participate in executive session by phone as well.