Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
A Gardner City Council meeting adjourned Sept. 4 without taking a vote on the employment status of Cheryl Harrison-Lee, city administrator.
An email sent to Gardner Sept. 10 asking about Harrison-Lee’s employment status, and who was serving as city administrator or interim was unanswered at press time.
The Sept. 4 adjournment motion was proposed by Lee Moore, council president and seconded by Rich Melton, vice-president, and came after the council emerged from a 45 minute closed session.
Soon after the executive session, Steve Shute, mayor, called for an adjournment motion, but Randy Gregorcyk, councilmember, interjected and asked for legal advice on whether the council can take a vote while in executive session.
“My understanding is that the council can meet in executive session and even come to a consensus but a vote on any matter has to be taken in public,” he said.
Ryan Denk, city attorney, concurred saying the law does not allow council to vote in executive session.
According to the League of Kansas Municipalities, changes to executive session in 2017 would require both the exemption – matters relating to non elected personnel – as well as the justification for the closed session. No justification was provided.
Harrison-Lee was not present at the meeting and has reportedly been placed on administrative leave.
During the meeting Kristina Harrison, former council member, said the council was making a mistake in attempting to get rid of the city administrator.
“We hired her because of her professionalism, her proven track record with economic development and her strong background in planning,” she said.
Harrison said that during the years she worked with the administrator the reasons for her hiring were validated time and again with the city winning awards under her leadership.
“This decision not only creates an instability for our growing city but also opens the city up for unnecessary litigation,” she said.
After the meeting former mayor Chris Morrow told Gardner News it would be a mistake to fire the administrator.
“She has been a professional who organized the city and showed the way forward and she remains the face of our city throughout the metro,” he said.
According to Derek Schmidt, attorney general’s, webpage:
Does a public body have a duty to close certain discussions? Not under the KOMA. The KOMA allows executives session discussions; it does not require them.
Does the KOMA require members of a public body to refrain from publicly revealing matters that were discussed while in executive sessions? No. Some other laws, or considerations such as fiduciary duty, personal privacy rights, or contracts, may require or influence such confidentiality. But the KOMA itself does not require that the topics listed in K.S.A. 75-4319 always be kept private.