Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
Comments made by an appointed planning commissioner raised concerns regarding social media at the Aug. 3 council meeting. The council discussed removing the member from the commission. The issue apparently revolved around comments the commissioner made on social media and failure to acknowledge a developer during a zoom meeting.
The planning department has recently gone through changes, including one planning commissioner’s resignation, two city planners retiring and the city looking to contract planning services at a time when the city has annexed more than 1700 acres.
Rich Melton, council member, said he was worried Gardner could potentially be in trouble with legal matters because of online social media presence and a commissioner who ignored a developer during a zoom meeting.
“I find it really troubling,” he said. “We are not here to protect friends, but we are here to help the community.”
Melton said he wanted to know if they could be removed from Facebook and that the expectation of the committee member is that you shouldn’t be saying certain things.
“It is clearly on purpose,” he said. “It’s the only time I’ve seen this happen with an appointed person.”
Randy Gregorcyk, council member, said he would need time to digest the information. “I don’t know the standards,” he said. “This is new to me, and I don’t understand what is going on.”
Mark Baldwin, city council member, said you can argue all night about Facebook comments. “Messing with personal affairs bothers me more,” he said. “Shutting down a developer in a meeting isn’t representing what we want as a city.”
Tory Roberts, council member, said she wanted more investigation and detail. “I watched that meeting,” she said. “He did raise his hand.”
Roberts said they should revisit the planning commission criteria and rules. “I wouldn’t have put myself in a position” she said. Roberts said she didn’t know the precedence for this type of event and didn’t remember a time the city let go of an appointed commission member.
Baldwin read Section on Removal 2.667 Section 2 Subsection K. “It’s vague,” he said. “Really anything could go.”
Charles Dunlap, city attorney, browsed through removal rules. “It would be best to have a discussion separately with email,” he said.
Gregorcyk said he would like council members to do their due diligence before continuing further down the path of removal.
Dunlap said the state laws for Kansas in regards to removal is that there needs to be a reason to remove individual for cause. “Facebook isn’t the thing, but personnel issue is the cause,” he said.
Baldwin said not letting a developer speak is the cause. “Misconduct and liability towards the city is the cause,” he said. “I’d rather look into it first.”
Steve Shute, mayor, and council members agreed to hold an executive session at a later date after getting a legal opinion about what the law states about an appointed, not elected, member and preparing something first about what the standards are for a commission member.