Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Topeka City Manager to Need Governing Body Approval to Skip Normal Procedures

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Topeka City Manager to Need Governing Body Approval to Skip Normal Procedures

Article excerpt

Topeka City Councilwoman Sandra Clear sought Tuesday evening to require governing body approval for the city manager to sign a contract with any city or individual bringing in someone to serve as a department head for six months or less.

Clear said the city needed to do that after city manager Jim Colson opted not to tell the governing body before he entered in February into a contract with the city of Goodyear, Ariz., to employ interim fire chief Tim Wayne. Clear said 50 people called her to say the governing body should have oversight, and she agrees.

But governing body members voted 6-4 to reject Clear's proposed language.

They then voted 8-2 to approve wording put forth by Councilwoman Karen Hiller that instead requires governing body approval "prior to the city manager signing any employment contract that does not follow the department of human resources' process for recruitment and selections."

Hiller suggested that rather than passing legislation relating to one circumstance that might never happen again, governing body approval would be required if the city manager skips normal procedures.

Councilwoman Michelle De La Isla said that while Hiller's proposal wasn't a perfect solution, she thought it was a reasonable compromise.

Colson signed a contract in February between the cities of Topeka and Goodyear, Ariz., arranging for Goodyear to loan its deputy fire chief Wayne to serve six months as Topeka's interim fire chief. Wayne has known Colson since 2003. Wayne started work in Topeka on March 1.

Councilman Jeff Coen said at Tuesday's meeting: "We have egg on our face. It's embarrassing we're sitting here talking about this."

Former Topeka Councilman John Alcala, now a Kansas legislator, filed a lawsuit Feb. 29 claiming Colson's move violated a city ordinance.

Alcala announced March 24 that he and the city had settled the suit, agreeing Alcala would drop it in exchange for the governing body's consideration of a proposal that would clarify the authority of the city manager to retain the assistance of loaned executives. …

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