Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Grdner News
Gardner Mayor Steve Shute said at the March 15 council meeting his letter asking the county commission to postpone the appointment of Randy Gregorcyk as fireboard representative without consulting the city “leadership council” was not about the individual appointment but about not being consulted..
He said he wanted to clarify that the letter that was written and signed by him, Todd Winters, council president,  and Mark Baldwin, vice president, to the Johnson County Commission and published in The Gardner News wasn’t about the individual.
“It doesn’t have to do with who but the what,” he said. “It’s not about the individual but not being consulted, and I want to make it clear to the community.”
Shute said they were informed of Gregorcyk’s appointment to the fire board two days before the board of commissioners’ meeting.
“We were assured mayors were going to be consulted, and it didn’t happen in our case,” he said.
Shute said he had spoken directly with the mayors from Edgerton and Spring Hlll, and Don Roberts, Edgerton, appointed their council member Ron Conus to the board after an executive session, and Spring Hill opted out because the mayor is not running for re-election.
Tory Roberts, member, said she was mostly shocked by the letter because she had never heard about a City of Gardner Leadership Team. “It’s the first I’ve ever heard of it,” she said. “You don’t say or send letters on our behalf.”
Roberts said she wanted to know what the leadership team was, when did they meet, what topics they discuss and why it isn’t shared with the rest of council.
Shute said the leadership team had always been the mayor, council president and council vice president.
Winters said the leadership team went back to the previous city administration.
Roberts said other times the council always made decisions together through email communications.
“It didn’t seem right,” she said. “How many emails are there with leadership team.”
Shute said the letter had been the first one.
Roberts said all of the city council members should have been contacted and wanted to know if there were other teams she didn’t know about.
Shute said there were no other teams. “We don’t run things in secrecy,” he said. “We had to react to something we were blind-sided on.”
Shute said he had fought with the Johnson County Commission not to replace the other Gardner Fire Board representative. ““I don’t mind having two Gardner reps, but I find it detrimental to Spring Hill (not to have one),” he said.
Gregoryck said he found it interesting that three individuals known as the leadership team required consultation, and he had never heard of a leadership team either.
“The VP and president are purely for succession to take over if the mayor can’t perform their duties,” he said. “I don’t think the term should be used for municipalities that use policy government.”
Winters said they were asking for the whole city to be consulted.
Gregoryck said they shouldn’t use the term leadership team.
Shute said Gregoryck was asked for comment from The Gardner News and he as mayor had never received an email or correspondence requesting comment.
“Next time they say they reached out to me they better have reached out to me,” he said. “It’s called courtesy.”
According to archived e mail, an e mail was sent by The Gardner News at 12:17 p.m. March 5 to the city’s public information officer asking for comment from the mayor. No response was received.
Shute said why the person who was appointed to the fire board had to go behind the city’s back was distressing.
Baldwin said he remembered previous leadership teams in prior councils.
“It’s a huge dropping the ball for the county commission,” he said.
Baldwin said the fire board seemed similar to the water board and since the water board members are elected so should the fire board members.
He said if they changed the fire board members from five to three members there would be equal representation for each city in the district.
“The fact is that the requirement could be made by a toddler,” he said. “You only have to live here for three years.”
Baldwin said all residents should push the county to make changes to have fire board members elected instead of appointed.
“Allenbrand can pick whoever she wants,” he said. “But my interests are in the criteria she used for the future.”
Baldwin said he wasn’t happy that Sixth District County Commissioner Shirley Allenbrand was supposed to attend a Gardner City Council meeting in February and had cancelled.
“Where was the announcement on the expansion of the board,” he said. “She doesn’t have an obligation, but the position she is trying to fill not soliciting to residents is in poor taste.”
Baldwin said he didn’t know the motives but it appeared as maneuvering behind residents backs. “I would have recommended opening the position to residents,” he said.
Baldwin said it was shameful the entire city of Gardner hadn’t been told or consulted. “It’s taxation without representation,” he said. “I believe the appointee needs some explaining and I expect them to be a liaison between the board and us.”
Gregoryck said Baldwin had a lot of valid questions, and he encouraged him to email  Allenbrand.
Gregoryck said on April 5, 2020 the Johnson County Fire Department had levied mills for a new firehouse in Edgerton. He said he felt it was taxation without representation and talked to Jim Pruetting, city administrator, about the issue.
Gregoryck said he visited with the fire chief for an hour, didn’t know who Dr. Cook was and had a phone call from Johnson County Commission President Ed Eilert to County Commissioner Shirley Allenbrand.
“I didn’t know at the time there’s be a change to the fire board,” he said. “And I had similar ideas about representation, and they asked if I would want to be on the board as a citizen.”
Gregorcyk said he applied assuming many other people had been asked to apply.
“I look forward to providing representation to all of the city,” he said. “ I look forward to sharing in a deliberate way.”
Gregorcyk said he was sorry city council felt it was maneuvering when it wasn’t, and he appreciated Baldwin’s remarks.
Baldwin said once again it wasn’t about the who but the what. “It doesn’t have to do with you,” he said. “But I don’t think it is good leadership from an elected official not to share.”
Shute said the letter they wrote was public letter, but the fire board application hadn’t been open to the public. “I can take criticism,” he said. “But we had no knowledge.”
Gregorcyk said he wanted to know why he didn’t find out about the letter until he had watched the board of commissioners meeting.
Shute said the letter had been drafted the day before the county commission meeting and as soon as they sent it it is considered public record.
Roberts said she hadn’t known about it until she read it printed in The Gardner News.
Shute said they had run out of time. “There was nothing nefarious going on,” he said. “We were blind-sided.”