City cancels Christmas party
Controversy over Bonner Springs’ city employee Christmas party led this year’s gathering to be canceled.
The party was set for Friday, Dec. 10, at a local bar and grill, and City Hall was to close early, as all employees were required to attend. But when an unidentified employee took some complaints about the required party to a Kansas City television station, John Helin, city manager, said he felt continuing with the party would only add to the negativity.
The controversy arose when the employee went to KCTV 5, complaining that the party should not be required for employees and that the Speedway Bar and Grill was an inappropriate place to have it. The television station aired the story Wednesday, Dec. 8.
Helin said he had decided to clearly state that this year’s party would be mandatory for employees, posting notices for the public that City Hall would be closing early Friday for the get-together.
“I’ve always expressed that it was a requirement (for past parties), but I think it had not been interpreted that way,” he said.
Helin said he had heard from some department heads that a few employees had expressed they didn’t want to go this year, but Helin said the party promoted teamwork and was a camaraderie-building experience. At the party, long-term employees are recognized with service awards, new employees are welcomed, and they take part in a pool tournament.
“We don’t get a chance but once a year for all employees to get together,” he said.
Last year’s party was at the community center, but Helin said that venue spread employees out between different rooms, hindering communication. He chose to have it at the Speedway Grill because it would support a city business, provide a relaxed atmosphere and allow employees to congregate in one large space.
It also would make providing food and refreshments easier, though employees would not be allowed to drink alcohol. The city planned to spend about $700 on the party.
After the news crew interviewed Helin, he said the reporter informed him that someone from the station would be attending the party for a followup piece. Helin said he felt the initial report already had done enough to put the city in a negative light, and he didn’t want a followup report to increase the negativity, so he decided to cancel the party.
“It’s too great of a community to be dragged through the mud,” he said. “And I didn’t want to put my employees in the position of being harassed by Channel 5 newspeople putting cameras in their faces.”
Instead, City Hall closed for a half-hour Wednesday, Dec. 15, to allow employees to receive their service awards.
Helin said he thought a vast majority of employees had no qualms with the party, so it was unfortunate that it had to be canceled. Mayor Clausie Smith agreed, saying he didn’t understand why the party had caused such concern.
“I don’t see it as a serious problem,” Smith said.
“It’s something we’ll certainly evaluate next year to see what we want to do.”