The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Megan McNeill, Managing Editor
The City of LaHarpe came close to losing its water superintendent Monday night.
A nearly three-hour council meeting, which included an hour-long closed session regarding a personnel matter, culminated in a unanimous vote to reject the resignation of Tim Graves. "We've made mistakes, and we're trying to fix these. Nobody's perfect," said council member Kenneth Foster. "We're trying to have a redo here ... I'm just trying to help smooth things out and we're all trying to do the best we can."
Foster asked citizens to refrain from posting negative comments about their concerns with the city on social media.
"If we could all agree on going back to trying to fixing things, we could do what that sign says out there," he said, referring to signs around town declaring La Harpe is "a great place to live."
Graves said after the meeting, he is pleased that the city wasn't willing to see him go.
"I've been here 34 years and I would like to retire here," he said. "I've found out the job market is pretty tough."
Monalisa Graves said her husband wanted to quit because of harassment from Mayor Ryan Kienast and council members.
Although Monalisa Graves handles water billing for the city, she said Kienast and Water Committee Chair Marcia Stiller spent 45 minutes grilling Tim Graves about how specific customers are billed.
"You and the mayor forced me to resign," Tim Graves told Stiller during the meeting.
Lack of communication
Several citizens expressed concern that Kienast didn't directly notify several council members about Tim Graves' intention to leave his job.
"Did you try anything to get him to stay?" resident Michelle Brown asked Kienast.
"No, he chose to resign," Kienast said.
"Usually when someone resigns after (34) years, there's a reason," Brown answered.
Council members Darrell Kraft and Josiah Neff said they would have reached out to Tim Graves if they had been given more notice of his plan to resign.
"You guys are playing games," resident Connie Williams told the council. "You're dividing off and not talking to each other. You're not considering longtime employees who have been faithful to this city ... You guys need to listen to the people you're representing."
Street Superintendent Wayne Humphrey, city employee David Little and a contracted water operator had been running the water plant since Tim Graves submitted his resignation.
Carpenter still wants job back
The council's decision also sits well with former Water Department employee Daniel Carpenter.
"(Graves has) been with the water department for a very long time, and he's very well trusted," Carpenter said.
The council fired Carpenter in December 2015 because he hadn't obtained his Class A water license. Citizens have accused the council of wrongfully terminating Carpenter because he wasn't given a specific deadline to pass the test required for the license.
"If Daniel passes his test, I want a guarantee he'll get his job back," said Daniel's wife, Willo Carpenter.
"There needs to be transparency," Daniel Carpenter told the council. "If I was doing something wrong, you need to call me out."
Tim Graves said after the meeting that the possibility of reinstating Daniel Carpenter is being considered, but didn't want to elaborate because the matter was discussed in closed session.
Foster told Tim Graves during the meeting, "I would like to see you stay."
Council member Darrell Kraft added, "I would like to see you (and Daniel Carpenter) both stay."
Look for more information about Monday's meeting in the March 23 Hancock County Quill.