For more than an hour, the Salina City Commission and former commissioner Jon Blanchard discussed whether or not Blanchard should have been sanctioned while on the commission.
Commissioners at the time voted 3-2 to reprimand Blanchard for releasing unredacted documents to the Salina Journal that had been considered confidential.
Commissioners Trent Davis and Karl Ryan and Mayor Kaye Crawford voted for the reprimand; commissioners Blanchard and Hodges voted against.
The Journal first received documents in June 2014 in response to an open records request, but much of the information was blacked out, or redacted. The documents concerned a contract between the city and the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce for economic development services.
In the documents, city leaders gave reasons for not paying to the chamber the entire amount called for in the contract.
Blanchard gave unredacted copies of the documents to Journal reporter Tim Horan in October 2017 without gaining permission from the rest of the commissioners. The Journal published stories using that information.
Vice-Mayor Trent Davis, who referred to what Blanchard did as a “breach of trust.”, said there was no need to argue if the records should have been redacted but to consider whether or not Blanchard deserved the reprimand.
A few Salinans commented in support of Blanchard.
Salinan Greg Stephens called it a “defining moment for Salina.”
“I think you all need to have the courage to do what’s right,” he said. “A policy is not a rule. A policy is open to interpretation.”
Stephens said Blanchard was uncovering the fact that the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce was trying to fund candidates to run who were in support of its mission.
Stephens said “Jon (Blanchard) asked why.”
“He asked why not be transparent,” he said. “Part of our problem in town is people are losing trust in what’s going on. Transparency fixes problems.”
Commissioner Joe Hay Jr. said he would not apologize to Blanchard for actions of past commissioners.
Blanchard, who said he was seeking justice, said the commission didn’t owe him an apology but owed the public an apology.
Blanchard, who admitted to openly disclosing the documents to the Journal, said the board can’t handle “truth-tellers.”
“If I failed the public in one respective, it’s that I did not go immediately (to the Journal),” he said "The only guy who tells the truth in this gets a sanction."
Blanchard then singled out Mayor Karl Ryan and commissioner Mike Hoppock for having campaign chairmen who were either a current or former Chamber of Commerce board president, Mark Ritter and Daran Neuschafer.
Ryan and Hoppock admitted to such.
Blanchard also singled out commissioners Hay and Davis for receiving money from Ryan for their campaigns.
Blanchard said neither disagrees with Ryan because of that fact.
Both commissioners admitted to receiving the check from Ryan during their campaigns.
"I was supporting people who I thought would be good," Ryan said. "It's my right to contribute to anyone else's campaign I feel."
Blanchard said "nobody would know these things if I wouldn't have done what I did."