Berning recall successful

8/4/2010

By RACHAEL GRAY

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

Leoti City Council member Carol Berning was ousted from her position Tuesday night after Leoti residents voted 135-120 in favor of recalling her.

But the result proved to be nothing more than symbolic, as two days earlier, Berning resigned her council position. The council likely will accept the resignation at a meeting tonight.

Berning has moved from Leoti and has been working as the assistant to the Cowley County administrator for the past two weeks, she said. She did not comment on the recall results, other than stating she could no longer serve on the council after she had moved.

In a previous e-mail to The Telegram, Berning said, "The bottom line is that the recall vote will come and go and regardless of the outcome, the residents of Leoti, Kansas, will still have water, sewer, and sanitation services; just like they've been receiving all along. There will be work done on the streets this summer and fall, just as has been done in the past. There are city employees on staff that are willing and able to do the work set in front of them. The city is not in danger of losing any water rights on city wells, repairs are being completed on schedule. Leoti is and will continue to be a great place on the Great Plains."

Officials at the county clerk's office and city office this morning did not know what the process would be to fill Berning's vacant position.

Mayor Laura Medina did not return phone calls to The Telegram this morning.

A group spearheading the recall effort, comprised of Jeanene French, former city treasurer, Jim Myers, former auditor to the city, and Eugene Biel, resident, petitioned to put Berning's name on the ballot for a recall vote. The group attempted but failed to get enough signatures to include Mayor Laura Medina and City Council member Roger Porter on the ballot for a recall vote.

French has said the reasons for the recall stem from unfair treatment of city employees by the council members and the mayor, and from the inability of the city council to efficiently conduct the business of the city of Leoti.

French said Tuesday night that she had no comment on the recall results.

French had previously said the committee had no plans to attempt recalls on Medina or Porter in time for the November election.

City workers first brought their concerns to the council in early April at a regular city meeting. Employee concerns centered on the issuance of a new employee handbook that mandated fewer hours of sick leave per month, fewer paid days off per year and a different way in which to accumulate overtime hours — as actual hours worked. Before, any time more than 40 hours was considered overtime. Now, 40 hours must be worked, not including vacation and sick days used, to earn overtime.

In April, former deputy city clerk Kara Ayers delivered a notice of 12 requests from city employees asking the council to reinstate policies from a previous employee handbook. On behalf of city employees, Ayers asked for the reinstatement of overtime pay and sick leave policies, reinstatement of all paid days off, raises for three city employees, and for the council and mayor to show the city employees respect.

Council members Berning and Christensen met with Ayers and Aaron Matteson, assistant city superintendent, in April to discuss possible changes to the handbook. Since Ayers left her position, Sheri Eckert had been nominated to replace her.

Berning said this morning that the council has made three changes to the handbook as a result of meetings between the council members and city workers.

Employees will have 10 paid holidays per year, and will receive holiday pay plus one-half times the employee's regular rate if that employee is called out to work on paid holidays. The city also has agreed to provide eligible employees with eight hours of sick leave for each complete month of service.

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