The Sept. 5 Gardner City Council meeting was cancelled due to lack of quorum after Rich Melton, Steve Shute and Lee Moore declined to attend.
Moore and Shute indicated they had been advised by their personal attorney to avoid contact with city staff after being notified of a possible harassment complaint filed by an employee. The regular meeting was cancelled in late afternoon.
None of the email received indicate potential litigation or personal liability to council members.
The request was for e mail between council, mayor and city administration.
The email indicates that the three council members had been advised by Chris Morrow, mayor, that the meeting’s agenda could be reordered in such a manner that events surrounding the complaint and notification could be discussed in executive (closed) session, as is allowed under Kansas Statute.
In an e mail sent about 2 p.m., Morrow says he is going to cancel the work session, but suggests reordering the regular meeting’s agenda, so council members can be appraised of the situation.
“. . . . . I am not going to cancel this evening’s council meeting, and I am inviting everyone to attend. What will happen at the council meeting tonight is this:
-Immediately after the Pledge of Allegiance I will ask if a council member would make a motion to reorder the meeting and moving the executive session to the first order of business.
o Motion, second, all in favor.
– Next, I will entertain a motion to recess into executive session.
o Motion, second, all in favor.
At which point council members can be updated by the city attorney regarding the contents of the email they received on Friday and letter they should have received today from the Hinkle Law Firm LLC.”
About an hour later, Shute responds that he will not attend the meeting, as had Melton and Moore previously. The meeting was officially cancelled about 4:20 p.m.
While part of the councilmember’s stated concern as stated on social media was the apparent harassment claim and possible personal liability, the hiring of the Hinkle Law Firm, LLC, also was an issue.
In an e mail from Moore at about 11 a.m., he questions by whose authority an outside firm was hired to represent the city. Under the subject line Hinkle Law Firm, Moore writes: “What is the decision process for determining whether the city hires outside counsel for an accusation of harassment? Was this work offered for bid? How much will it cost? Why is it that the whole Governing Body is not notified of an accusation prior to a decision being made to hire outside counsel? The Council has not even heard from our own City Attorney on this matter.”
City Administrator Cheryl Harrison-Lee responds about noon and writes: “The investigation follow up is based on legal guidance on employment matters and the personnel manual upon receipt
of a written complaint. Typically, the subject(s) of the complaint is not consulted. The City does not bid work under $50,000. I anticipate that it will cost less than $5,000.”