The Gardner City Council held three executive sessions totaling 50 minutes at their Sept. 8 meeting. All three sessions were called to discuss personnel matters related to non-elected personnel, but they failed to describe the substance of the executive session in general terms as required in Attorney General Opinion No. 2018-1.
Randy Gregorcyk, council member, requested the published executive session be struck from the agenda. Council members voted 3 to 2 to hold the executive session with council members Gregorcyk and Tory Roberts, members, dissenting.
Prior to the executive sessions Adriana Meder, planning commission member, addressed the council during the public comments segment of the regular meeting. Her complete statement appears below. She declined to attend the executive session behind closed doors regarding an accusation of misconduct during an April 28 commission meeting.
The accusation was made at the Aug. 3 meeting when Rich Melton, vice president, had called for Meder to be removed from the planning commission because he said she was involved in personnel matters and also due to comments on her Facebook page.
The planning commission has undergone change with the departure of three employees: Kelly Woodward, chief planner, and Michelle Leininger, principal planner, ended employment with Gardner June 1, 2020, and Larry Powell, director economic development left July 2, 2020. Kiva Simmons-Lee also resigned from the commission July 22, 2020 saying in a statement it was due to action by council members Rich Melton and Mark Baldwin and also due to lack of communication regarding personnel change.
Meder read her statement Sept. 8 and said she spoke to Steve Shute, mayor, on July 30 and refused to resign from her position and also said she received an e mail from Jim Pruetting, city administrator, inviting her to the closed door session.
“My citizen opinion has nothing to do with my job,” she said Sept. 8. Meder said she refuted claims about shutting down a developer during a meeting as inaccurate.
During her statement Meder said, “I respectfully decline to participate in this evening’s executive session. I believe the city is organized in that the employees work for the city administrator, who works for the mayor, so why is the council wanting to call me into a closed meeting? There is no apparent reason for it.”
“Again, I am here to answer questions in the open public session,” Meder said. “ I will not attend an executive session behind closed doors.”
The council did not respond to Meder during public session.
The council did recess into three closed sessions. According to the city clerk:
Recessed into executive session pursuant to K.S.A. 75-4319 (b) (2), to discuss personnel matters related t o non-elected personnel for fifteen(15) minutes. (Passed unanimously)
Recessed into executive session pursuant to K.S.A. 75-4319 (b) (1), to discuss personnel matters related to non-elected personnel for twenty(20) minutes.(Passed 3-2)
Recessed into executive session pursuant to K.S.A. 75-4319 (b) (1), to discuss personnel matters related to non-elected personnel for fifteen(15) minutes.(Passed 4-0, 1 absent
No action was taken following the sessions.
In its entirety: Sept. 8 statement as read by Adrianna Meder, planning commissioner, regarding the Gardner city administrator’s invitation to an executive session:
Good evening Mayor and City Council. My name is Adrianna Meder, Gardner KS 66030.
I would like to start off with some background timeframe and other information to bring us to present.
* On July 30th, I spoke with the mayor via phone and among the discussion topics was that he would accept my resignation from Planning Commission, I told him I would not resign.
* At the August 3rd City Council meeting during council updates, Councilmember Melton expressed his concern regarding 3 things and wanted to review having me removed from my position on Planning Commission. To summarize:
o #1 Postings I made via my personal Facebook page (which has been deemed my right to do so as freedom of speech and nothing affecting my role on Planning Commission
o #2 That I shut down a developer during the April 28th Planning Commission meeting, which is an inaccurate accusation. The meeting minutes and video reflect none of that
o #3 That I interfered with City of Gardner personnel decisions, which again, is a 100% fact less and inaccurate accusation. My citizen opinion has nothing to do with who gets hired or fired with the City of Gardner
* On August 28th I had a face to face conversation with the City Administrator, who indicated that I would be invited to an upcoming executive session during a city council meeting for me to air my side of the allegations. I told him I would decline the participation of an executive session, however any questions that I needed to answer on this topic could be done during the public session of the city council meeting
* On August 30th I received the following email from the City Administrator, with the verbiage provided below that I will read for the record. I have also distributed copies to be included with tonight’s meeting minutes.
o Email states:
The Gardner City Council is inviting you to participate in an executive session during the September 8th city council meeting to provide you the opportunity to respond to allegations of misconduct that may result in a vote by the council to remove you from the Planning Commission for cause. This matter is being conducted in an executive session due to the nature of the discussion being directly related to a personnel matter. If you have any questions or concerns about your participation in this matter, please don’t hesitate to contact me. JP
* I did not respond to this email.
o I respectfully decline to participate in this evening’s executive session. I believe the city is organized in that the employees work for the city administrator, who works for the mayor, so why is the council wanting to call me into a closed meeting? There is no apparent reason for it.
* Again, I am here to answer questions in the open public session. I will not attend an executive session behind closed doors.
Complete information on the planning commission change appears here: https://gardnernews.com/city-of-gardner-planning-staff-commission-undergoes-change/