Archive for Monday, February 20, 2012

Basehor council members deny recall accusations at town-hall meeting

Basehor City Council President Dennis Mertz speaks during a town-hall meeting Sunday at Basehor Community Library, seated at a table next to city council member Iris Dysart. Mertz and Dysart, both of whom will be up for recall Feb. 28, answered questions from residents during the meeting.

Basehor City Council President Dennis Mertz speaks during a town-hall meeting Sunday at Basehor Community Library, seated at a table next to city council member Iris Dysart. Mertz and Dysart, both of whom will be up for recall Feb. 28, answered questions from residents during the meeting.

February 20, 2012, 5:58 p.m.

Updated: February 22, 2012, 10:17 a.m.

Basehor recall petitions

Previous Sentinel coverage of the efforts to recall Basehor City Council members Dennis Mertz and Iris Dysart and Basehor Mayor Terry Hill:

Oct. 31: Residents launch effort to recall Mertz, Dysart over Loughry firing

Nov. 2: Mertz, Dysart deny recall group's accusations

Nov. 14: New recall petition targets mayor

Nov. 22: Mayor responds in letter to residents

Dec. 7: Recall email raises concerns

Dec. 20: Election set for Feb. 28

Jan. 12: Judge rules for mayor's recall election to continue

Feb. 15: Mayor cries foul over spending allegations

At a town-hall meeting Sunday, Basehor City Council members Dennis Mertz and Iris Dysart again said they never broke open-meetings laws before they voted to fire former city administrator Mark Loughry last September.

Mertz told about 40 people at the gathering at Basehor Community Library that the council had discussed issues related to Loughry’s firing during an executive session earlier that month, echoing a statement he released late last year.

Such a discussion is lawful, Mertz said, and the proper way for a governing body to discuss city employees’ job performance.“

That is exactly how you take care of employee-employer relationships,” Mertz said. “You don’t do them in the open.”

The meeting Sunday afternoon was organized by Citizens for Responsible Governing, a group that supports a recall of Basehor Mayor Terry Hill and opposes the recall of Mertz and Dysart. The group has also created a website supporting the council members: dysartmertz.com.

The two council members addressed several accusations and criticisms that have been made against them as the Feb. 28 recall election approaches, and they answered questions from residents about a variety of city issues.

Mertz and Dysart said lawyers for the city’s liability insurance company had instructed council members not to speak specifically about Loughry’s time with the city because of the former administrator's plans for a lawsuit. But both said they had not violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act by discussing plans to fire Loughry outside of a public meeting, as was alleged in the petition for their recall.

Dysart said Sunday that she was in fact stunned when Mertz made his motion to dismiss Loughry during the council’s Sept. 19 meeting, and she had to think for a bit about how she would vote. She also explained her call to end discussion on the issue and take a vote — an action listed on the recall petition as evidence of a violation — saying she believed conversation between Mertz and council member David Breuer had become “argumentative.”

“There was no collusion with the three of us to fire Mark Loughry,” Dysart said, referring also to council member Fred Box, who cast the other vote to fire Loughry in September.

A city’s elected governing body is allowed under state law to discuss matters related to non-elected employees in an executive session, said Kim Winn, deputy director of the League of Kansas Municipalities.

“From a legal standpoint, it’s always a good idea to have those discussions in executive session,” Winn said.

Trudy Stonacek, a member of the committee seeking to recall Mertz and Dysart, told the Sentinel on Wednesday she did not believe that the council had discussed potentially firing Loughry during an executive session because of the shock expressed by other council members after the vote.

Other issues

During the meeting Sunday, the two council members also responded to several other accusations and criticisms made against them on a website promoting their recall, basehor-recall.com, including an item blaming them for Loughry’s planned lawsuit against the city seeking more than $500,000.

Dysart emphasized that Loughry has not yet filed a lawsuit, but has sent the city a claim notice informing the city of plans for a lawsuit if it does not respond within 120 days, giving the city until mid-May. Mertz said it was not a rare occurrence for a city to receive claims against it, and they often do not lead to actual lawsuits; Basehor has recently received claims from two other people, he said.

(Interim city administrator Lloyd Martley said Tuesday that one of those claims is from a former police officer alleging wrongful termination, and the other is from a resident regarding a sewer backup.)

“They come and they go,” Mertz said of claim notices.

Mertz and Dysart also shared explanations for their votes in September to choose a site at 155th Street and Basehor Boulevard as the spot of a future Basehor City Hall building. An item on the basehor-recall.com site said that their decision to go with that spot would cost the city $70,000 or more compared with other available sites.

The council voted on the matter because of a deal between the city and CrossFirst Holdings, which owns land surrounding Basehor Boulevard. The firm had offered for the city to choose a spot of up to 5 acres to use for a future city hall at an uncertain point in the future. In September, the council voted to select the spot at 155th and Basehor Boulevard over four other possible sites, 3-2, with Fred Box voting for the choice along with Dysart and Mertz.

At the meeting Sunday, Mertz said he had voted for that site because he wanted city hall to remain on the city’s “main street,” because it would allow for quicker departures for emergency vehicles and because it would just be appropriate.

“City Hall has always been on 155th Street, and I think that’s the proper place for it to be,” Mertz said.

In September, Martley told council members the site on 155th would come with an additional cost ranging from $70,000 to $100,000 to demolish various structures. In a memo to the council, the city staff recommended a different site farther east because of a lower cost; however, the memo also said that “any of the sites will work.”

Finally, Mertz responded to an accusation on the recall website that he and Dysart had retroactively voted to give themselves about $2,000 in “unapproved pay” in February of last year. Mertz said he was not aware of any such inappropriate pay.

“I have no idea, nor have I seen any proof of how we took too much money,” Mertz said.

That item on the website referred to Ordinance No. 585, which the council approved as part of its consent agenda during its February 2011 meeting. The ordinance set council members’ pay at $100 per two-week pay period ($2,600 per year), while also setting wages for a variety of other city appointees and employees.

Basehor City Clerk Corey Swisher said council members had begun receiving that amount of pay at the beginning of 2009, after they had budgeted for the increase the year before. Previously, council members were paid $100 per month.

But in an oversight, the city never prepared an ordinance establishing the new pay rate at that time, Swisher said. Ordinance 585 was passed after staff discovered that mistake.

Hence, both Mertz and Dysart were paid at the new, higher rate for about two years even though it had not been established by ordinance. Current member David Breuer and former members Jim Washington and Bill Moyer also were paid at that rate during that time.

The council’s vote on the consent agenda that included Ordinance 585 was 4-0, with Mertz, Dysart, Washington and Moyer casting “yes” votes. Breuer was absent from the meeting.

Swisher said the decision to place the ordinance on the consent agenda rather than the regular agenda would have been up to Mayor Hill along with the city administrator and city attorney, who at that time were Mark Loughry and Patrick Reavey, respectively.

Comments

bobmoore 2 years, 1 month ago

vote yes for terry hill vote no for dysart and mertz on feb 18 2012 by bob moore tu all

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bobmoore 2 years, 1 month ago

my th to all voter and worker bob moore and all jobe will dun

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ProudOfOurCity 2 years, 1 month ago

I was present the night Mr. Loughry was fired. NO, Iris Dysart did not think about it for a bit before calling for a vote....................it was immediate.
And by the way, if Sunday's meeting at the library was truly a Town Hall meeting why was the entire Town (City) not notified or invited?

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LightTheDarkCorners 2 years, 1 month ago

See page 3 of last week's Basehor Sentinel for the 5" x 3/5" display ad inviting everyone to attend the meeting. And oh, that ad contrary to everything circulated against Iris and Dennis fully met the political advertising disclosure laws.

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Dennis Mertz 2 years, 1 month ago

A notification by the City Clerk was sent notifying citizens who wish to be notified that a meeting was going to take place.

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ProudOfOurCity 2 years, 1 month ago

Hey Dennis, why didn't you post a sign outside of your business notifying everyone?

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johninbasehor 2 years, 1 month ago

$70,000-$100,000 in additional costs to the taxpayers for the proposed site for the new city hall over a $0 cost of other sites just as good. An extra $20,000 engineering cost for the wolf creek road extension over a cheaper and just as qualified bid. Extra thousands of dollars for a special city audit that 90% of the cities the size of Basehor do not use because of the extra expense. This looks very much like our city council are the ones that are wasting the taxpayers money instead of the Mayor. All those so called wasteful visa bills that the pro Mertz and Dysart group keep blaming the Mayor for, as it turns out, were approved by that very group of council members they are defending. The Mayor does not set the budget, the city council does. This does not include the $500,000 law suit against the city by the former city manager for breach of contract and slander. Now we are told of another law suit against the city because of possible discrimination against a former Basehor police officer. Enough is enough. Get rid of Mertz and the lady that repeatedly says: "I don't recall".

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boots 2 years, 1 month ago

I can almost guarentee there was absolutely NO discrimination to the "former police officer"

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swampdonkey 2 years, 1 month ago

What is the justification for building a new city hall? Isn't the current one sufficient? Will the insurance the city carries actually pick up the $500,000 law suit tab? Doubt it!!! The situation with the former administrator could have been avoided. So what happens to Mr. Box when the day is done? Wasn't he involved in the private conversations with Mertz & Dysart?

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jayhawk83 2 years, 1 month ago

At this time, only two council members can be recalled at a time. I would imagine that some people may have plans to seek recall of Box as well once the current recall is completed.

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Dennis Mertz 2 years, 1 month ago

No private conversations occurred outside of a proper meeting.

No one can predict the outcome of any claim. Regardless the insurance carrier will defend the City against such claim as well as the other 2 claims that have nothing to do with me.

No one has given a timeline to build a City hall. One thing is certain. We will receive a FREE piece of land that we can someday build a City Hall on. Rest assured that if and when that day come it will be done with Sales Tax money and not your personal property tax. This fund was set up in 1992 and has over $1 million dollars in it and can only be used for infrastructure per the 1992 wording in the election.

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johninbasehor 2 years, 1 month ago

If the breach of contract case is upheld in the city manager lawsuit, as Box was one of those three council members that decided to skate the employment contract of Mr. Loughrey and fire him against the judgement of the present city attorney without any notice, a hearing, and complete and timely severance, and it costs Basehor taxpayers some of their hard earned tax dollars, and in consideration of the alleged secret meeting between some of our current council members, I would think another recall would be in order.

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swampdonkey 2 years, 1 month ago

The events of the 28th should be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

What are their justifications for building a new city hall? What is the immediate need?

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Dennis Mertz 2 years, 1 month ago

Question answered the last time you asked. Look UP

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flower 2 years, 1 month ago

Hello, all the above quotes virtually discuss everything but the issues. Let’s get back to what we are voting on and what we are not. 1. Iris and Dennis recall vote is, whether or not they violated KOMA by discussing/deciding the firing of Mark Loughry outside of Council or Executive meetings.
2. Terry’s recall vote is based on did he alter a contract in a manner he knew was different than he believed was negotiated. The second charge was; he directed/authorized a severance check be written to Loughry without Council approval. These are the two recall issues. All the rest of the information or misinformation is not relevant to this election. The other items would be information to use in a Primary and then a General election. To use the information for this election to circumvent the General election is a disservice to the Officers’ as well as the citizens of Basehor. Now let’s see what the evidence is on the counts.
1. Did Iris and Dennis discuss/decide Loughry’s firing outside Council meetings? They say no. Their opposition indicates the timing is too coincidental for there not to have been complicity. So it’s as simple as you believe one or the other. The charges on the other recall vote are not so cut and dried. 2. Terry has indicated he believed the negotiating team agreed to the extension of benefits to Loughry and was simply correcting what he felt was an accidental omission. Members of the Council have had almost 3 years to place this on the Council Agenda if they really wanted it changed. The lack of action is tantamount to agreement. The issuing of the check was required by contract. Dennis Mertz took issue with the amount, which, has since been validated as originally correct. It is anticipated the final check will come before the Council in the near future for an additional amount which together with the modified check will equal the amount of the first check. Consequently, it was correct from the beginning. So let’s go vote on the issues not all the untruths, half truths, innuendos, and lies. Let’s just vote the issues of the recalls and leave the rest for the Primary election.

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nomorelies0187Theoneman 2 years, 1 month ago

OldtimeBasehor(anonymous) says…

Follow The Yellow Brick Road To Nowhere Behind the curtain Jimmy the Wizard of Oz is pulling the levers and has sent Dorothy Dysart, Cowardly Lion Mertz, Scarecrow Moore and Tin Man Box out to get the broom of Elaine the Wicked Witch of the East after a house fell on her sister, Marilyn, the Wicked Witch of the West. Along the way they have created a $500,000 potential lawsuit for the Emerald City. Unfortunately in this story there are no ruby slippers. This little group, following Wizard Jimmy’s quest find themselves lost in the Dark Corners Forest with no Light. Hopefully, the recall election will send all of them home and Emerald City will return to the beautiful, peaceful place that it once was. Let us hope and pray that the balloon full of hot air lifts off soon taking Jimmy the Wizard back to wherever he came from, gone forever from Emerald City. The End

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