Mayor delays city clerk appointment

News editor

Disagreement over selection procedures has delayed appointment of a new city clerk for Marion until after Tuesday’s election.

“I am not going to be appointing him at this next meeting,” Mayor Mary Olson said Monday. “I’m not going to do that before the election; we agreed to that.”

Olson chose to delay the appointment because she objected to how the search was carried out and how a job offer made before the full council could interview the applicant.

Although municipal and state law make it clear that only the mayor has the authority to nominate a city clerk, Olson never once in a lengthy interview objected to the decision essentially being made for her.

Rather, she was concerned with the city offering someone a job that required two additional steps of approval — the mayor’s appointment and council’s confirmation.

Her concern was focused on what would happen if the candidate was rejected at either of those steps.

She said she wanted the whole council to interview the applicant before the appointment to avoid embarrassment for that applicant in case something came up that caused the council to reject the appointment.

“I want the whole council to know that person, and if there are any objections, to get that out before I appoint,” she said.

Olson reiterated that her objection had absolutely nothing to do with the applicant or his qualifications.

She said she didn’t think there was much risk the appointment would be rejected, but she didn’t want to take any chances after a different appointment she thought was simple was rejected by the council.

The state requires the council give a reason for rejecting mayoral appointments, and in that case the council had to publicly declare a city volunteer unqualified and unfit to serve.

Council member and mayor candidate Todd Heitschmidt said if Olson had concerns, she should have joined a panel that reviewed resumes and interviewed applicants.

“If the mayor is disgusted, he should be disgusted with herself, because she had every opportunity to participate,” Heitschmidt said. “The process did not fail.”

He added that the process still depends on Olson appointing a person for the council to consider.

Council member Jerry Dieter said he didn’t volunteer for the interview panel because he assumed Olson would be part of it, and he didn’t want to run into issues with the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

“I don’t know what her beef is,” Dieter said.

Olson acknowledged receiving the e-mail Holter sent to the council asking for volunteers to review applications. She said she requested Holter and the panel winnow the applicants down to the three best for the whole council to interview.

Holter sent another e-mail to the council March 5 informing them that the panel had narrowed the search to three candidates and would interview them March 12 and 14.

Only one of the three finalists actually appeared for an interview, so the panel agreed for Holter to make a conditional job offer so the applicant could go through mandatory background checks and affidavit of eligibility, Holter said.

“It does us no good to present a candidate who can’t legally serve in the position,” he said March 19.

His plan was to invite the candidate with a final interview with the full council March 31, as was done with Sheila Makovec earlier this year. After speaking with the council, she was appointed and confirmed at the same meeting.

“I think it’s been done by the same procedure as the last three or four clerks,” Dieter said.

Holter said that offering a job before the appointment allowed the applicant to start training with the software and other tools of the position.

Olson said she spoke with an attorney with the League of Kansas Municipalities about appointment power, because City Attorney Susan Robson was on vacation. She said the attorney verified for her that appointment rests with the mayor, subject to confirmation by the council.

City code specifically states the mayor appoints the administrator, clerk, deputy clerk, treasurer, police chief, fire chief, attorney, “and other officers and employees as they may deem necessary.” Those offices are appointed to one-year terms each April.

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