The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Council Votes To Hire Accounting Firm To Handle City Financial; Offers public works job to applicant; Learns of New IEPA violations

-by Deb Olson, The Quill

A special meeting of the La Harpe City Council convened at 6 p.m. in the upper meeting room at City Hall Monday evening, January 30, 2017 for the purpose of considering 4 action items as listed on the agenda.

Dave Clover commented that he was surprised at the last meeting when La Harpe resident Karlene Kurtz in making remarks to the council during the public comments section of the meeting was allowed to individually call out three aldermen and the City Clerk.

Clover noted that several people had been ejected from previous council meetings for such conduct.

Following public comment, the council went into Executive Session. After the hour long Executive Session, the council reconvened to address the action items on the agenda.

The council passed resolution No. 2017-B which allowed the council to hire the firm of Arnold, Behrens, Nesbit, Gray, P.C. of Quincy "to perform the City's payroll, tax and other accounting tasks and all financial transactions that are necessary to conduct the City business."

This action was deemed necessary due to the resignation of interim treasurer Jennifer Ewing at last Monday's (Jan 23) council meeting.

Next, the council discussed new, recently received violations from IEPA.

This communication stipulates a time frame in which action must be taken.

There was a motion to schedule a meeting between IEPA and one or two Aldermen to address water issues.

At the meeting the representatives will waive further S31 rights in order to clear up issues with IEPA.

The council has extended an offer of employment to Ben Diewold who applied for the Public Works job.

At this time the council discussed approving the interim bills. Marcia Stiller will make a list of current bills, and will work with Arnold, Behrens, Nesbit, Gray, P. C. to make a smooth transition.

City Attorney Diestler reminded the council of the need to approve her recently submitted July bill.

The council approved paying the attorney's July bill. However, it was decided to prepare the list of other bills which will then be paid at next council meeting.

The special meeting was adjourned and the joint committee was convened.

During the joint committee meeting, like a work session, items can be discussed but no action may be taken.

Issues to be discussed included:

Mike Bennett's suggestion to do away with current departments (except the Police) and department heads in order to simplify the job descriptions and employee evaluations.

This item will not be added to the agenda again.

Bennett also brought up the notion of appointing a Treasurer as opposed to electing one, in light of the fact that no one has taken out nomination papers to fill the office.

The council will consider this idea of an appointed treasurer versus an elected one at the next meeting.

In Public Comments, Dave Clover expressed his displeasure with council for agreeing to pay the attorney's recently submitted July bill. The bill "was 6 months late," he said, and yet "the council voted to pay it in less than a week."

Brian Covert asked if any local accounting service such as Wood Tax and Accounting had been asked to take care of the city's financial records. There was no response. He ended by saying, "If you can't lead, step aside!"

The committee meeting ended at 8:20 p.m.

Clover's Requested Freedom of Information

Packet Disclosed

In recent months, La Harpe resident Dave Clover has been collecting information regarding various city issues through Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

At the January 23, council meeting Clover gave each of the Aldermen, the Mayor, the City Clerk, the interim Treasurer, the City Attorney and the reporters from the Quill and the Journal-Pilot, a file folder with a list of questions/statements for the council accompanied by documentary evidence.

He began by saying, "I"d like the council to vote to allow me to have more time to speak just like you would if it was someone from Economic Development of WIRC!

"I have information that will benefit you as councilmen."

Dave asked for 15 minutes to present his material but was cut off shortly after the 5 minute public comments time limit.

He initially noted that "11 of the 17 items on the agenda (of January 23 meeting) were on the last meetings agenda". He would like to see the council take more prompt action on items listed on the agenda rather than tabling them so they appear to be re-hashed continually.

Other points on the document accompanying the file include:

Item 3 - FOIA request attorney bills, agreement between Ryan and city attorney re water bills. Mr Clover has been requesting attorney bill information for some time, but he notes, "you can't get a bill that hasn't been submitted."

In regards to the agreement about Mayor Kienast's water bill, Clover believes that it was not legal to settle the matter in a closed executive session. There was also a FOIA request on this. See Item 4.

Item 4 - Illinois State Police investigation reports: intimidation, changing of water bill, death threat. These reports were FOIA requested to show how these various incidents were unfounded.

Item 5 - info regarding use of e-mail information and phone call. This information was the basis of allegations of violation of open meeting laws.

Item 6 asks "Who is responsible for agenda preparation?" Mr. Clover feels that the mayor is not doing his job. This information is also a partial basis for Clover's belief that the City Attorney overreaches her authority and sometimes in Clover's opinion performs duties that the mayor or alderman should do.

Item 7 is an article from IML (Illinois Municipal League) on "How To Choose An Attorney." This print out was included to describe some actions of the City Attorney with which Clover disagrees.

Item 8 informs about a pending bill recently introduced in the Illinois State Assembly to create a Local Inspector General who can investigate "allegations of incompetence, neglect of duty, malfeasance in office, corruption or official misconduct.

Item 9 includes information on a state statute about meeting attendance. Posted in response to questions regarding the mayor and other aldermen missing meetings.

Item 10 shows that under IML ruling all settlement agreements are considered public records under FOIA. Again this is used in order to find what settlement was reached between Mayor Kienast and the city as represented by City Attorney Diane Diestler.

Item 11 and Item 12 are state statutes about liability issues in parks or playgrounds. Can be viewed as justification for snow removal at churches and park districts by a government body. This speaks to questions at some recent meeting about what city workers can and can't do on non-city properties.

In item 13 the case is made that according to statutes the mayor should prepare state of the municipality annually This is according to 65 ILCS5/3.1-35.5. This also shows yet another way that Mr. Clover feels the mayor is not doing his job.

Item 14 IML printout of "How To Choose a Governmental Attorney" and like Item 7 the article describes steps in hiring an attorney using language that again points up Mr. Clovers disagreement as to how the city attorney should act.

Item 15 any meeting changed from city hall is supposed to have a public notice in paper

Item 16 and 1st Amendment rights. Clover included this to remind the council that he believes he has a First Amendment right to speak on the performance of any elected official.

Item 17 deals with posting everyone's email address on website. Many citizens have stated that they have difficulty reaching council members by phone or e-mail. Clover included information on P. A. 98-0930 which amended the Local Records Law and seeks to provide public access to elected officials through e-mail addresses being posted on a city's website.

Item 18 covers an act (Public Act 99-0515) to allow newly elected officials to view minutes of previous closed sessions. This being the case Dave Clover who is running to fill a 2nd Ward seat in the April election will be able to review past closed session with an eye to getting answers to many of his questions.

Dave alleges that the mess all started when the Mayor Ryan Kienast fired Daniel Carpenter on November 15, 2015 for revealing the water situation. Dave has asked repeatedly during public comment sessions at council meetings for the answers to a series of questions about issues facing the community.

These questions include: When will the public learn of the settlement agreed to by Mayor Kienast and City Attorney Diane Diestler representing the city?; When will the city attorney submit all bills?; What will be done about other water issues, such as hiring of another water department employee and responding to IEPA violation notices in a timely manner?

Dave is bothered by the fact that some people look at him and others who continue to asked pointed questions at council meetings as "troublemakers". He believes that he (and others) are working to provide information that will help make the city of La Harpe a better place to live.

When asked why he continues to research these city issues and speak out about problems he sees, Dave says he "wants to fix this." He wants "La Harpe to get back to what it was." In the end however, it is up to the voting citizens of La Harpe to choose which direction the city should go by casting their ballots in the upcoming April election.