Brigham’s status on, then off, again



September 27, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Former Iola City Administrator Judy Brigham had her job back Monday evening — for about three hours.
Iola City Council members voted 5-4 to rehire Brigham near the start of their regular meeting, thus allowing her to retire in good standing with the city.
The council originally voted Aug. 30 to fire Brigham, less than three weeks before her scheduled Sept. 16 retirement date.
Councilman Donald Becker kick-started Monday’s meeting with a motion to rehire Brigham, allowing her to recoup unused sick leave and remain enrolled in the city’s health insurance program. He also proposed the city pay Brigham $2,500 for reimbursement of legal expenses related to her termination. Joining him were Joel Wicoff, Jim Kilby and Scott Stewart. Council members Kendall Callahan, Beverly Franklin, Steve French and Ken Rowe opposed.
Mayor Bill Shirley was asked to break the 4-4 deadlock.
“I’ve always said that if there’s a 4-4 vote, I’d vote for approval,” Shirley said. “Motion passes.”
But the vote prompted City Attorney Chuck Apt to immediately ask for an executive session for attorney-client privilege. Council members emerged from the 95-minute private discussion with Shirley announcing the earlier vote was invalid because it ran contrary to city policy regarding terminated employees.
Then, at the tail end of the nearly four-hour meeting, the council huddled privately with Apt again for 10 minutes, at the conclusion of which they voted 6-2 to formally rescind Brigham’s rehiring, Becker and Wicoff opposed.
“The motion (to rehire Brigham) was premature and therefore not effective,” Shirley said. “The vote was contrary to written city policy.”
Stewart was asked by a Register reporter his reasoning for changing his vote. He and Kilby voted for Brigham’s firing and her rehiring.
While declining to discuss specifics, Stewart said, “I thought a statement needed to be made” with Brigham’s rehiring. “It’s time to put this past us and move on. We have a lot of important issues we need to be focused on.”
And in a seemingly related matter, the council voted 6-2, Becker and Wicoff opposed, to authorize Slaugh to seek firms for a full audit of all city finances from 2007 through 2010.
Slaugh said he would return with costs related to such a study.
The city’s budgets are audited annually, as mandated by state law.
The difference between those and the new audit is that normal audits primarily look at the budget procedures and checks of various funds, said Callahan, who proposed the study. A full audit will entail a full review of all city funds from top to bottom.
The council has yet to comment publicly on Brigham’s firing, and will not, Shirley said, citing the city’s long-standing policy not to comment or to disclose personnel issues or decisions.
Brigham has filed a grievance, asking the city to repeal its firing or to give a reasoning behind its action.
The council must respond by the end of this week and will release its results to Brigham, but not the public.
A crowd of about 60 attended Monday’s meeting, with a handful speaking again on Brigham’s behalf, including Iolans Ray and Donna Houser, Dee Singer and Cindy Chalker.
“We’re back and we’re gonna keep coming back,” Ray Houser said.

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