The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Residents Question Mayor's Actions, Call For His Removal
by Megan McNeill/Hancock County Journal-Pilot
La Harpe residents are calling for the removal of their city's mayor amid controversy over issues including water billing and water department staffing.
At the March 14 city council meeting, Lacie Thompson angrily asked why residents can't vote to recall Mayor Ryan Kienast.
"This is not a home rule municipality," said City Attorney Kurt Dittmer, adding that a city must have a population of at least 25,000 to be under home rule.
"I'm not saying anything you're doing is illegal, I'm saying it's unjust," Thompson said. "And the people are angry, as rightfully they should be. So maybe you should think about that the next time something comes up, and actually discuss it among yourselves. Any one of you could have called a special meeting (when Water Superintendent Tim Graves submitted his resignation)."
"My first concern was that the water stayed on," Kienast said.
"Your first concern has been you : from day one," Thompson answered. "And we're getting sick and tired of it."
"It seems like the voice of many has been silenced by the actions of the few," Bart Thompson told the council. "In the state of Illinois, legally, there can be no recall ordinance. I would like to ask my two aldermen in my ward to come together and try to get together something on the November ballot, under the public opinion law, that we would just have to get a certain number of voters' signatures for a non-binding advisory question : as to the number of citizens in LaHarpe who are unhappy with a certain elected official : in this particular case, I think it is the mayor."
Ed Pence revived the issue of committee reassignments.
"My ward is not getting equal representation," Ed Pence told the council. "Has that been corrected, or is it going to be corrected?"
"We have the committees that have been set forth at this time," Kienast said.
"The committees we had were pretty even," Pence said. "But after you changed them around, three of your biggest opponents have less voice on the committees. That's interesting to me. What's also interesting is you took ESDA off public safety and put Josiah (Neff, council member) in charge of that - which essentially is nonexistent now because you fired Dan (Carpenter, former water employee). So, Josiah's got nothing to do.
"I want to ask my aldermen how (they) feel about this."
"When I got that list, I was surprised," said council member Kenneth Foster. "I do feel that Josiah needs to be put on (more committees)."
Pence suggested Foster turn his seat on the Water Committee over to Neff.
"It seems to me that this whole problem is with the water, and the strongest opponent was taken off that committee," Pence said.
"As much issues as we have on the Water Committee, I'd be happy to hand it over to somebody," Foster said.
Neff said he and Dittmer have been working on an ordinance that would ensure equal representation on the committees.
Richard Wood shared with the council a photo of the collapsing building adjacent to his property, Wood Tax and Accounting. He is concerned not only about his own building, but about the safety of his wife and her employees. He was told the Building Committee would investigate whether the owner of the building next door has liability insurance.
Wood also asked the council how it could hire two part-time police officers without knowing who the officers were.
The council received requests from Max Owsley and Ben Hitz for paving of their street, and from Owsley about his sidewalk. The council said they aren't paving streets right now and told Owsley it will investigate whether the Illinois Department of Transportation has funds available to fix hazardous sidewalks.
The council also: