Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 30 March 2010 18:30
Marion City Council member Bill Holdeman said during the March 22 regular meeting that he wanted an explanation about why a special meeting was called March 12 alleging misconduct on the part of Mayor Mary Olson.
The allegation concerned K.S.A. 21-4005, which addresses “maliciously circulating false rumors” about a local business “with intent to injure” its “financial standing or reputation.”
“I think this was a power play before the election,” he said.
Holdeman, who was out of town when the special meeting was held, said he thought it took three council members to call this type of meeting.
Councilor Gene Winkler said he called the special meeting for the purpose of “damage control to the city.”
No action was taken at the special meeting, Winkler said.
Discussion regarding the March 12 meeting didn’t end with Holdeman, though. Roger Schwab, a teacher and resident, asked to be heard during public forum, which allows community members three minutes to talk about whatever is on their mind.
Schwab offered his opinion about the special meeting, calling it “an embarrassment to the city.”
Citing K.S.A. statute 14-111, he said only the mayor or a written request by three other council members, specifying the purpose for calling a special meeting, is allowed.
Schwab also cited Marion’s Ordinance 1286, which he said specifically states the mayor of the city can call a special meeting and nobody else.
“We have some problems here, folks,” he said.
As a teacher talking to his students, Schwab said, he has been asked, “Why can (the city government) violate the laws and we can’t?”
Schwab also said the city administrator’s job is to ensure that laws and ordinances are executed.
“This (special meeting) was an embarrassment and a shameful thing to do,” Schwab said.
Olson interjected during Schwab’s three-minute public forum time, saying she was grateful for what he was trying to do.
“Roger, I appreciate it all (what you are saying) and I think it’s going to settle down,” she said. “I am not ashamed of what I have done.”
Schwab acknowledged her comments, but also asked that he be allowed to finish what he came to say. He then directed fire at City Attorney Dan Baldwin and council members Steve Smith, who is running for mayor against Olson, and Winkler.
“Mr. Baldwin allowed a lot of this to happen,” he said.
Referring to a previous meeting involving stalled clean-up efforts, Schwab said, Baldwin said the mayor stopped the process by not allowing certain areas of town to be cleaned up in compliance with the ordinance.
Schwab said Baldwin could have said “no” about this alleged action by the mayor.
He also said Baldwin’s obligation was to the city, but instead he chose not to follow the council’s lead.
In addition, Schwab alleged that while he was serving on the planning and zoning commission, Smith told him the council needed to “move now” on approval of a new business in the industrial park.
“I was being asked to violate state statute and that’s when I resigned,” he said.
Schwab said that following the special meeting, Winkler told him that if he didn’t like it here in Marion, then Schwab should move out of town.
Schwab said he does have his house for sale and is planning to leave. He also told council members they should immediately terminate the city attorney and city administrator.
Following the March 22 council meeting, Ashley Anstaett, director of communications with the Kansas Attorney General’s office, said the office had received Baldwin’s request for an investigation.
The AG’s office will review the allegations, she said, and decide whether to prosecute Olson for alleged criminal misconduct.
At the March 12 special meeting, Baldwin said the action was prompted by information he became aware of involving Olson and Brad and Anita Seacat, owners of Seacat Do it Best, a building supply business in Marion.
Baldwin told council members, at that time, that as the city attorney he was going to ask the AG’s office to investigate the matter.
In other business at the March 22 meeting, Winkler asked about a bid that had been approved at the March 8 meeting for concrete to be used for sidewalk replacement at Brooker Park.
The low bid that was accepted came from BG Builders/Hett Carpentry in Marion. The bid was $15,850 based on the use of a traditional cement truck. The other three bidders had also bid on the project with an alternate quote for using a pump truck to deliver concrete at the site in case of wet weather.
Winkler asked Harvey Sanders, public works director, whether the council had changed its original bid specifications.
“I was told the one we gave the bid to last week would need to supply a pump truck,” Winkler said.
City Administrator David Mayfield said BG Builders/Hett Carpentry was supposed to bid on both options but had not.
“We can have them resubmit bids,” Mayfield said.
But Winkler said because the bids were already opened, BG Builders/Hett Carpentry would be able to see what the other bids were.
“We voted to have two bids,” Winkler said, “and it’s a little unfair they didn’t submit (one of the options) and got the bid. But maybe it’s not that big of a deal.”
The discussion ended at that point.
Marion Housing Authority
Charles Heerey, chairman of the Marion Housing Authority, gave an account of fiscal year activities between Oct. 1, 2008, through Sept. 30, 2009.
“We had six vacancies,” he said, “but all were filled by the end of the year (at Hilltop Manor, 1501 E. Lawrence St.).”
In addition, Heerey said, three names are on the waiting list.
New income limits when applying for housing were issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, he said, and the board of commissioners adopted those limits April 21, Heerey said.
For one person, the maximum amount of low income that can be earned is $29,300 with very low income set at $18,300 and 30 percent limit of $11,000.
A two-person in low income is limited to $33,500; very low income $20,900 and 30 percent limit $12,550.
Personnel changes included Brad Carlson replacing Tom Anderson in maintenance; Shirley Carlson and Carla Tharp changed positions with Carlson, now executive director, and Tharp, deputy director.
In other business, the council:
• heard from Margo Yates, tourism director. She said she needed to reprint promotional plastic bags because most were used at recent travel and boat shows.
• was updated about Chingawassa Days. Yates said Marion National Bank and Central National Bank will be the two major sponsors with additional support from local businesses and some individuals.
The weekend agenda includes the barbecue, bluegrass music and a hypnotist. Saturday will feature 38 Special and a group recommended by Greg Carlson, called “Rain.” Another group, “Vegetable,” will include two Marion youth.
• heard Yates report that the basketball season was successful, and the recreation board is gearing up for swim club, softball, baseball and blastball.
Council members approved Yates’ request to paint the inside of the concession stand March 26-27.
The Swim Team Booster Club purchased a timing system, she said. Last year, the club bought computer software and the next big purchase is a scoreboard, estimated at $4,000.
• approved the city’s insurance premium renewal through Case & Son Insurance of Marion. Owner Casey Case said the renewal rate would be $101,602 annually, or $1,177 more than last year’s premium of $100,425.
“The auto and worker’s compensation premiums are both down due to favorable experience,” he said. “The property premium is up a bit, mainly due to the increase of property values.”
Blanket coverage was increased by about $1.4 million, Case said.
• approved library board appointments Pauline Holub and Bruce Winkler to four-year terms through April 2014. Terry Svoboda was reappointed to a second four-year term, expiring also in April 2014.
• agreed to wait until the April 5 meeting regarding a fence issue on a property at 498 N. Cedar. The fence is considered by some to be a danger for motorists coming out of the alley heading north, and unable to see traffic to the north.
Citizen Tony Schafers said this has been a problem for about a year.
Mayfield said the daughter of the property owner planned to have it surveyed.
Baldwin said the reason this process has taken so long was because the city was waiting for the owner, John Broese, to recover from health issues.
“The last time we brought this up?(to the owners), they said they would take care of it,” Baldwin said.
He said the city cannot enforce any violations until the property is surveyed.