Basehor council split on support for Pfannenstiel
Its been nearly two months since it was reported Basehor Mayor John Pfannenstiel faced numerous charges alleging crimes while working as a sergeant at the Lansing State Prison.
When the announcement came there was an outcry by at least two members of the Basehor City Council, who called for Pfannenstiel to step down. In the past month quiet has prevailed on the citys front, but that does not necessarily mean everything is normal.
At a special meeting following the announcement that Pfannenstiel was being charged with two felony counts of unlawful sexual relations with an inmate and smuggling contraband into the prison, Councilman Joseph Odle stated he would not return to a meeting as long as Pfannenstiel remained mayor. He has kept that promise, missing the last two meetings.
Councilman Robert Vervaecke, who made a motion in September requesting the mayor to take a leave of absence, has not missed a meeting, but his participation has included no votes on some routine matters.
But, Vervaecke said there are reasons behind his votes, like his no vote last week to the citys treasurers report.
We are being asked to approve a wide variety of expenses with no supporting data. It is important, with the attention that is being drawn to the city, that all of our Is are dotted and our Ts are crossed.
Originally I started to vote no simply as a protest, but it is more, we need data to back our actions up, Vervaecke said.
He also noted that he voted no on a five-year staff and equipment plan because he thought the timing was wrong.
We have a mayor facing felony charges and we dont even know if hell be in office next week. We have an election next spring for the mayor and two councilmen.
I think you should be making long-term plans at the beginning of a term, not at the end, he said.
Vervaecke said contrary to Pfannenstiels desire to keep the citys business running as usual, such is not the case.
Basically not much is happening. I think everyones laying back waiting to see what happens, he said.
Pfannenstiel said he disagreed with that assessment.
When the charges against me came out, I was getting ready to go out in the community and work on some things. We had gotten our staff to the point that it could take care of most of the everyday business and I was going to concentrate on other things.
Nothing is really new, Pfannenstiel said.
Councilman Chris Garcias view is similar to the mayors.
I guess its up to peoples definition of business as usual. Is the city being run like before? The answer is yes. I talk regularly with the department heads and asked if there have been any extraordinary disturbances or problems and theyve said no, Garcia said.
While the day-to-day operations may continue on, all three agreed that council meetings have been unusual.
It seemed like we were all on edge last week, Garcia said. It was like we were all waiting for someone to make some kind of motion about it. It wasnt brought up and we got our business done.
Its important that we attend to our business or we are at a standstill.
While Garcia did not address Vervaeckes voting at the meeting, he did comment on Odles absences.
My opinion is, we are elected by the people to do a job, no matter what happens. We have to keep our personal views out of it. If we as councilmen dont come to meetings, then we have stopped business as usual, said Garcia.
Odle could not be reached for comment, but Vervaecke said there was some misinformation in the city.
Ive heard some people say they were mad because he did not come to the September meeting when I asked the mayor to take a leave of absence. It failed 2-2, but his coming to vote would not have forced the mayor out, it was simply a request, he said.
Garcia said he voted against the request, as did councilman Victor Ziegler, because he thought it was inappropriate. Council Burl Gratny voted for the motion.
I was always taught that you are innocent until proven guilty. As soon as we heard about the problems we seemed to have this knee-jerk reaction, trying to do something. This was before the evidence was presented, before there was a trial.
There has still been none of that, but as I understand it, theres no rule that even if hes convicted that would force him to step down, Garcia said.
Pfannenstiel said his relationship with the council is much like before.
Ive had no contact with Odle, but thats not unusual. Vervaecke and I used to communicate closely, but we havent as much recently because weve been busy, but Ive been able to contact him when Ive needed to, Pfannenstiel said.
Vervaecke said the voters would have the final say in April when the mayors job, as well as his (Vervaeckes) council seat and that of Odles will be on the ballot.
I made it clear months before all of this happened that Im not interested in running for re-election or for the mayors job. I have not changed my mind, he said.
Pfannenstiel reiterated that regardless of the action of Odle or the rest of the board, he wants to maintain business as normal.
Everyones got to make a decision what they think is right. As long as we have a quorum and can perform the business of the city, it doesnt bother me, he said.