GUERNSEY – An unexpected item on the agenda at the Guernsey city council meeting May 19 listed the possible reinstatement of Kate Farmer, former Guernsey Treasurer, to her former position.
Mayor Nicholas Paustian brought the agenda item before the council and before the audience members in attendance at the council meeting.
“I’m in favor of this simply because she’s done a great job for the town, she’s done a great job with all the other agencies,” Paustian said. “I spoke to her and said that I’d bring it up in council, so we’ll take a vote on it and I want all the council members involved in this, and they don’t have to be. That’s an appointment by me.”
With that statement, a motion was made and seconded to approve Farmer coming back.
Discussion began with Joe Michaels, who affirmed filling the position is a mayor’s appointment with council approval. He also questioned if the council was still soliciting applications for the position.
“It would make sense to me,” Michaels said, “that she would put her hat in the ring and go through that as well to make it clear and transparent. It would probably be the same result, but she would go through the same thing as everybody else, and you can never tell, there may be somebody that is even better than Kate Farmer.”
Michaels also pointed out two council members are listed in ongoing federal lawsuits with Farmer and without lawyer guidance.
“It would make sense that the two individuals listed with her on the federal lawsuit would either recuse themselves from the vote or at the very least, abstain from voting,” Michaels said. “Because it could be construed as favoritism, conflict of interest and preselection.”
The question was also posed to the mayor as to what the salary and benefit package would be, should she return.
“She would come back at the same salary and the benefits that she was paid and given prior to her leaving,” Paustian said.
Questions were raised as to her transparency and her not being forthcoming with the city of Chattanooga, where she was hired as their city treasurer before being dismissed after only a few days. Rebuttal came in the form of a reference made to an independent attorney, Sam D. Elliott who filed a report for the city of Chattanooga and stated that she was named in a “more or less run-of-the-mill wrongful termination case,” and that “there should be little concern with her ability to proceed with duties of Treasurer.”
Elliott went on to say, “This appears to be an employment termination dispute that is couched in terms of a civil rights violation because the employer was a government entity.”
Elliot further stated that no civil rights violation involving discrimination or misappropriation of any government funds is alleged against Farmer in any of the three lawsuits that she is named in.
The question from the public in the Guernsey council meeting was posed as to why Farmer did not disclose the lawsuits to her new employer.
Attorney Dana Lent, who was attending the meeting by teleconference, explained Farmer was advised by her legal counsel not to disclose or speak about the cases in which she was named. Farmer was under a gag order and essentially it cost her the job in Chattanooga, even after having been exonerated by Attorney Elliott.
The vote from the council was two in favor of hiring Farmer back and two opposed. When it came time for the mayor to break the tie, it was pointed out that, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, the mayor did not have to vote, nor did he have to say
He did comment and state, “We have a tied vote up here and I do think we can open this up to interviewing the applicants.” The motion was then made to table the vote until after all the interviews were conducted.
Some of the other items at the meeting included:
• New Guernsey police officer, Trampas Glover was given an oath of office and welcomed to the police force.
• A golf course bath floor with new floor epoxy is to be installed by Anderson Carpet Sales of Lingle. The project would cost $3,500 and would take one week to complete. In addition, with the added crowds that are golfing, it was requested that a marshal be hired for an extra 20 hours during weekend peak hours.
• A statement of the budget numbers being pushed back to the 2008 numbers was given by Kelli Augustyn.
• The new beach south of the Platte River Bridge was mentioned and it was explained the beach was funded by private donations.
• Little league was going to go forth, at least for practices. With the new restrictions, new equipment would have to be purchased and sanitation of all equipment as well as social distancing would be maintained at every practice. In the event of games, there would be no spectators allowed within the fences, each team would occupy the home and away bleachers and the managers must remain in front of their respective dugouts.