Archive for Thursday, December 16, 2004

Treasurer resigns in wake of controversy

December 16, 2004

Following his retirement from the military, city treasurer Baron Powell found "exactly what I was looking for" by working as a Basehor city employee.

"I feel fortunate in having made acquaintance with several people whose company I enjoy and whose competence and dedication I admire," Powell said. "I am truly sad that things have worked out like they did."

The statement above was taken from a letter of resignation submitted by Powell to members of the Basehor City Council Tuesday. Powell's resignation is the second leveled at council members this week from a high profile employee.

It also comes on the heels of controversy Monday night during which a salary increase for the treasurer -- previously approved without council consent by Basehor mayor Joseph Scherer and city administrator David Fuqua -- was contested by some City Council members.

After much discussion, the council OK'd the treasurer's wage increase from $14.39 per hour to $17.50 per hour. However, to counterbalance the wage hike, the council voted to withhold from the treasurer a 2.75 percent cost of living increase given to every other municipal employee.

City Council president Julian Espinoza said the increase in Powell's salary without approval was an oversight and nothing more. He said steps were taken Monday night to rectify the problem. However, fixing the mistakes turned into an ugly situation that included Powell wrongfully being criticized.

"After the meeting Monday night, it came as no surprise to me that the city treasurer would decide to leave," Espinoza said. "It does not surprise me in the least."

Powell said the decision to approve a cost-of-living increase for all employees but himself left him with "little doubt that some on the council consider me an overpaid part-time employee."

"Given that I have assumed duties far in excess of what any of my predecessors were responsible for, to include the development of a comprehensive city budget for the last three years, I was dismayed to learn that my role in the city's operations is considered by some to be of such minor consequence," his letter states.

While the discussion and action of the City Council Monday night pushed Powell over the edge, a rift between he and the council existed long before the meeting. Powell's letter states "it is very clear that I no longer have the confidence of the City Council."

"I am seldom consulted prior to financial decisions being made and on those occasions I am asked for an opinion my recommendations are routinely disregarded," Powell wrote. "Further, over the last six months I've been accused of stealing, misappropriating and hiding the city's money along with being sloppy and having a general disregard for the welfare of Basehor's citizens."

Claims of financial improprieties, Powell wrote, are "unfounded and unjust accusations against my character and judgment."

As a group, Powell said City Council members "act in ways that seem to be mean-spirited, short-sighted, ill-informed and self-serving." He contends that a "like a family" environment that was in place when he first began work as a city employee has been replaced in the last year "with a poisonous atmosphere that is not conducive to an enjoyable working experience."

Powell's resignation letter does not specify exactly when he will leave his post. It states he is "willing to stay on until I have found another job or until a replacement is trained."

"If however, the City Council is uncomfortable with this arrangement, I am prepared to leave immediately following a brief 'audit' of the current status of the city's financial records," his letter states.

Espinoza said he's unsure of how the City Council will go about replacing Powell.

"I don't know the procedure yet because I don't know what the rest of the council will think," he said. "There is such a philosophical difference as to how this city should be managed, I don't know what the consensus would be."

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