Archive for Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Basehor council’s vote to remove Loughry sparks shock, questions at City Hall

Mark Loughry

Mark Loughry

September 21, 2011

Special meeting called

The Basehor City Council has called a special meeting for Thursday morning to discuss the city administrator job. Click here to read more.

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The Basehor City Council voted Monday night to oust city administrator Mark Loughry from his position after two years on the job.

The split vote led one council member to storm out of Basehor City Hall, and it has left the city government in a state of limbo as it investigates whether the move was legally valid.

“This is far from being over,” Mayor Terry Hill said Tuesday.

Loughry was absent from the council meeting, returning with his family from a vacation to Branson, Mo.

Near the end of the meeting Monday, Council President Dennis Mertz made a motion to “remove the appointment of city administrator.” Members Fred Box and Iris Dysart joined Mertz in voting for the motion, and David Breuer and Travis Miles voted against.

Soon afterward, Breuer stood up, threw a packet of papers across the council’s table against a wall, and walked out of Basehor City Hall. The council voted to adjourn the meeting quickly afterward.

Breuer said Wednesday his reaction reflected his total surprise at what had just happened.

“I was totally shocked,” Breuer said. “I was confused. I had no idea what was going on.”

Loughry, who spoke Wednesday with the Sentinel, said he found out about the vote about 10:30 p.m. Monday, shortly after he and his family had arrived home.

“I guess I would say it was kind of a shock to me, seeing as how I was on vacation,” Loughry said.

The three council members who voted for Loughry’s ouster said they could not comment on the reason for their choice, as it involved a personnel issue and they were unsure if they could discuss it publicly. Mertz, though, did clarify what his exact intention was: to terminate Loughry’s employment with the city.

“He’s done,” Mertz said. “He’s gone.”

SHOCK AND CONFUSION

The vote to remove Loughry came as a shock to Hill, as well, the mayor said. from page 1

And in the aftermath of that surprising move, the city is unsure what will happen next, he said.

“There are so many unanswered questions with this,” Hill said.

When Mertz made his motion to remove the appointment, he cited a Kansas state statute dictating that any appointed city officer “may be removed by a majority vote” of the city council.

But Hill said the city attorney, Shannon Marcano, was investigating whether that statute conflicts with the city of Basehor’s charter or Loughry’s contract, signed in August 2009. Loughry’s contract, for instance, states that the city council must conduct a hearing with Loughry in executive session at least 10 days before terminating his employment, to allow him to defend himself. No such hearing has taken place, Hill said.

Hill said those questions left Loughry’s exact status unsure at the moment. As it stands now, Loughry is not coming in to work, but he will continue to be paid, Hill said.

“I told him not to return to the office, but as far as I was concerned, he was still the city administrator,” Hill said.

Marcano said Wednesday she could not comment on what would happen next.

Loughry has been city administrator since August 2009. He was appointed by Hill and approved unanimously by the city council at that time. His contract listed a starting salary of $88,000, and his current salary is $89,773.

Both council members who voted against Loughry’s removal said they did not understand the reason for the ouster, as the other members did not provide explanations for their votes or request that the council meet first in executive session.

Miles said it was apparent to him those three council members had made up their minds to remove Loughry before the meeting.

“I don’t understand how you fire someone without giving reason why,” Miles said.

Box said he could not comment on why he voted the way he did, but he said the motion to remove Loughry did not surprise him.

“I knew it was coming up,” Box said.

Mertz said he had simply made the motion because he thought it was the right choice, and Box and Dysart happened to agree.

“I just took a shot at what I thought was right,” Mertz said.

CONTRACT DISPUTE

Mertz’s motion to remove Loughry immediately followed a vote on a proposed addendum to Loughry’s 2-year-old employment agreement with the city.

The addendum would have added provisions for the city to extend to Loughry any cost-of-living salary adjustment given to other city employees and for the city to pay 100 percent of health insurance premiums for Loughry and his family. The council voted to deny the addendum, 3-2; Mertz, Box and Dysart voted to deny it.

Those areas of Loughry’s contract became a source of contention this summer, Hill said, after Mertz asked why the city was paying for 100 percent of health-insurance premiums for both Loughry and his family, even though the original contract provided for the city to pay the premium only for Loughry’s insurance.

Hill said the insurance premiums for Loughry’s family and the cost-of-living adjustments were guaranteed to Loughry when the city negotiated his contract in summer 2009, and those items were not specifically outlined in his contract only by error. The city has paid 100 percent of the premiums for Loughry’s family’s health insurance since he began on the job, Hill said.

Right now, the city pays about $1,088 per month in health insurance premiums for Loughry and his family.

Marcano examined the contract this summer, Hill said, and said it already allowed for Loughry to receive those benefits. At Mertz’s request, though, Marcano had prepared an addendum that would specifically list those benefits in the document, Hill said.

At Monday’s meeting, Marcano said the proposed addendum was meant to formalize the pay and benefits that Loughry’s contract originally “anticipated.”

Mertz, though, said Tuesday that former city attorney Patrick Reavey disagreed that the current contract allowed for Loughry to receive those benefits, and the city council had never approved them.

“I was never asked if he could get those benefits,” Mertz said.

Reavey, contacted by the Sentinel on Wednesday, said he could not comment on any issues with Loughry's contract as he was bound by attorney-client privilege. He said he prepared Loughry's contract before the council and Hill began negotiations with Loughry, but he was not present for the negotiations or the signing of the contract.

Hill appointed Marcano as city attorney in June, replacing Reavey.

Loughry said that, during his contract negotiations in 2009, he had asked to receive at least the same pay and benefits he had received from the city of Hays, where he had been the assistant city manager. That included the full payment of health insurance premiums for him and his family, as well as any citywide cost-of-living adjustments, he said.

“You have somebody who didn’t like the opinion (he) got from our legal counsel, and so tried to go out on (his) own and do something else,” Loughry said. “It all resulted in a big, mixed-up mess.”

WHAT HAPPENS NOW

In the event Monday’s vote is overturned or found invalid, Hill said he had doubts about whether Loughry would be able to continue as city administrator.

“The slap in Mark’s face was done,” Hill said, “so how effective he will be after that, I don’t know.”

He also said he was concerned about what would happen with the city’s talks with Orscheln Farm & Home about its possible new Basehor store; he fears the vote might make Orscheln executives worry about instability on the city council.

“If I was Orscheln, I’d be weary,” Hill said.

Breuer said the vote Monday had demonstrated a divide in the city council.

“It’s put the board in chaos,” Breuer said. “I’m concerned about the city.”

Miles said Loughry had been an “excellent” city administrator, and he was unsure of what would happen if he were removed.

“I still haven’t digested it, what the next step is going to be,” Miles said. “I guess the three council members that voted to remove Mr. Loughry must have a plan for us.”

Dysart and Box both said they were not worried about the city making the transition from Loughry to a new administrator.

“I think we’ll just move on,” Dysart said.

Box said the city would be better off now.

“I feel like there’s changes coming, and changes have got to be made,” Box said. “I can say that much.”

For Loughry’s part, he said he planned to continue living in Basehor, even if he no longer works for the city. If that requires him to change careers, so be it, he said.

“I couldn’t think of a better city in the Kansas City metro area to live in,” Loughry said.

Comments

basehorman 2 years, 6 months ago

Well of course the action taken wasn't legal, why else call for a special meeting. Great Job Mertz, Box, and Dysart. Not only did you make a big mistake removing the city administrator, but you also didn't follow the proper procedure in doing it. Do these 3 really know what they are doing? What does this mistaken mean for the City of Basehor?

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Ronald Grover 2 years, 6 months ago

How do we know it wasn't legal? There needs to be some transparency with this group. Not only do the facts need to come out on the issues concerning the administrators employment contract but violations of KOMA (Kansas Open Meetings Act) should be investigated.

This real issue for all the citizens of Basehor to be concerned with is not so much the firing of the administrator. That will be worked out and money will probably solve all the issues surrounding that issue. However, if these 3 that worked up this plan are allowed to violate the law, only an investigation by the county attorney's office can determine that, the citizens of Basehor will pay the ultimate price of a "secret government" working only for a few special interests.

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Dennis Mertz 2 years, 6 months ago

Rong, I feel like it is a better time now to respond to you wanting transparency. Some of the documents of reason were, at the time of your comment, protected by Attorney Client privilege and I do sympathize with you needing clarification. I would be happy to share any documents and reasoning of my decision in person. The decision was solely a business decision and I wish Mark the best. He is a very likable man. I can understand why a group of citizens are upset.

I can assure you that, at NO such time did any KOMA violation occur. At NO time did I talk to more than one Council member about any given topic. There was a few informative executive sessions and information that surfaced days before Sept 19 motion was enough for me to make a decision. You need to see if the other Council members had the same or different reasons for their decisions before you point fingers at me.

Please inform yourself with facts before you make any claim. I do not think I can be anymore transparent than this. I am the ONLY one on this forum with my identity as my username. Let me know if there is anything else I can clear up and I will try my best.

Dennis Mertz 913-449-7000

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babetwo 2 years, 6 months ago

Rong...................................................you are exactly right!

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Vikingfury 2 years, 6 months ago

The city of Basehor has grown in many positive ways over the last few years thanks to the mayor. You have a group of people who want to reverse that progress and take the city in the wrong direction. Mertz, Box and Dysart should be removed from the city council and replaced with people who have the best interest of the city in mind, not there own personal agenda.

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Dennis Mertz 2 years, 6 months ago

The packet that I referred to at the Council meeting has been released to the public by the City Attorney and is available at City Hall. This packet is only part of the reason why I made the motion to remove the City Administrator. I would certainly hope that those who have criticized my actions would take the time to read it.

The Basehor Sentinel from what I understand will possibly post the packet or portions of it.

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nope 2 years, 6 months ago

I'm confused, if the "packet" is public information and we can go to city hall and look at it, then why could you not discuss it during the meeting?

My understanding is that ANY personel matter should have been discussed in Exec. Session before a vote was taken. If you three "couldn't say anything about your reasons" and the other two council members and the Mayor were surprised by the whole motion, then how in the heck did you decide to remove him? Must have been some conversation, somewhere...No public information, no Exec Session to discuss personnel...Sounds fishy to me.

No judgement here, just curiosity.

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Talisman 2 years, 6 months ago

There are several issues surrounding the actions of the Council that cause people to criticize Dysart, Box and Mertz. Open meetings violation, (very obvious by reading what the paper reported and what Box has stated, after he said he can't comment!) administrator wasn't given an opportunity to resign, administrator wasn't present at the meeting in which you decide to terminate (cowardly) and the language in administrators contract:

Loughry's contract states that if the council intends to terminate his employment, the council must provide him a written notice of that intent at least 10 days before taking action, and must also allow him to appear at a hearing to defend himself. The council did not take any of those actions before voting to remove Loughry.

Good luck defending this when it ends up in court! Looks like a loser to me, which means once again the taxpayer will suffer in the end!

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Thinkaboutit 2 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Mertz what is the ENTIRE reason for your motion. You keep saying part of the reason is in the packet. We have the right to know. Regardless of what you think.. You cannot do whatever you want because you can talk 2 of your friends into voting with you. If you want mr. Loughry gone... Why did you and all of council reinstate him 4 months ago? Were you just waiting till he was in another state so you didn't have to face him? Not disagreeing with your decision.. Just feel like you are trying to keep your reasons secret. Remember we elected you! You work for us!

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Dennis Mertz 2 years, 6 months ago

I need to clarify a few items here.

1) The packet from the previous City Attorney was not an open record until after the meeting. I would have to believe that pressure by either the public or the news agencies caused the City Attorney to release these documents three days later.

2) Discussion about personnel matters were discussed at previous work session and many emails to the attorney in which she emailed the entire Council. In the executive session on 9/12 I felt like there would be support on the removal due to discussions about addendum.

3) I sent an email on July 28th asking the Mayor to provide the review forms to carry out a formal review with no response. "Where are the review forms that the "Mayor" is to get to the council for his "yearly" review?". On August 1st we tried to have a review but no forms from Mayor. The contract states how reviews are to be carried out. You would need to ask the Mayor why this did not happen.

Bottom line is there will be a few to try and play this out in the media and try to get sympathy but I can say that I am doing what my "Governing Body Handbook" states I must do when I see potential wrongdoing. I can't control how others act or what they say.

If anyone would like to see any of the facts then feel free to contact me.

I have nothing to hide. I took an oath and plan to fulfill those commitments.

Also, I told the press yesterday that I would stop giving interviews as this is over and done. We need to move on.

Sincerely,

Dennis Mertz 913-449-7000 (cell) mertz@swbell.net

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Talisman 2 years, 6 months ago

Big surprise here.....Dennis coming out to defend himself and his actions. I hope you really don't expect us to believe that your motion came about without previous discussion with Dysart and Box! Box admitted as much in the newspaper but only after he said he couldn't comment!

(“I knew it was coming up,” Box said.)

And seriously Dennis, WTH does #3 have to do with anything that is being currently discussed? It is obvious you are on a power trip and unfortunately you're not nearly as smart as you think you are.

I indeed hope there is a recall petition with your name on it! I would be one of the first to sign it!!!

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softballmom365 2 years, 6 months ago

Right behind you Talisman... If you are first to sign, then I'll be second! I believe there should be a petition for each of them to be recalled...and I would sign all three!

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Talisman 2 years, 6 months ago

PS Check out the Sentinel online poll to see how the community feels about your actions!

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babetwo 2 years, 6 months ago

dennismertz: Wrong again.................................this is far from being " over and done".

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GoBobcats 2 years, 6 months ago

Mertz was shady and manipulative before he took an unopposed seat and further proves it. Now he and his cohorts are going to cost the City of Basehor much money to defend this lawsuit or pay a settlement. Way to go! Small town minds, small town good 'ol boy actions. Where is the recall petition?

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resident_1 2 years, 6 months ago

I've lived in Basehor for 5 years. My family chose to call Basehor home for one reason: Our children. We know our neighbors well, attend city functions, support local clubs and organizations, and have attended both coucil meetings and worksessions... All in the hopes of becoming a funcitonal part of this community.

I'm sure in due time, more information will be provided to residents relating to the specifics of this issue allowing us to make an EDUCATED decision on actions of the council. We may even have to seek out some of that information on our own.

Basehor citizens continually bash each other, our elected officials, our local leaders, organizations, etc. Please... continue to jump to conclusions, form your opinions from one source of information, fly off the handle, storm off like children, point fingers and gossip amongst yourselves. Lead our children by example and portray our community for the "outside" world in the light it deserves. BEFORE judging the actions of the Council and City administration, we should all take a long hard look at ourselves.

If you don't like the way things are run, get up, get active, get involved. EVERDAY, not just when news hits the paper.

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