“Keep Kathy-Support the Embassy Square Foundation” stickers sported by members of audience at last night’s council meeting.
In what has been seen as an attempt to divorce itself from the Embassy Block Foundation and its associated projects, the Henderson City Council voted to continue its relationship with the foundation in the form of the Special Projects Manager.
The position is currently held by Kathy Powell. Powell defended her position in a letter to the editor to Home in Henderson this past Sunday.
Approximately twenty people came to the meeting sporting “Keep Kathy” stickers in a show of support for Kathy Powell, who currently occupies the position of Special Projects Manager for the city and is attached to the Embassy Block project.
The project is most noted for its recent completion of the new H. Leslie Perry Memorial Library, the funding of which has been the subject of controversy during the development of city and county budgets.
The library is scheduled to open on July 5.
The elimination of the position was discussed during several of the council budget work sessions. In a straw vote, it was agreed in a work session to eliminate the position from the budget.
The cost of the position, including salary and benefits, are reimbursed by the Embassy Foundation.
The council’s agenda called for a public hearing on the fiscal 2006-2007 budget. Several members of the audience took the opportunity to speak to the council regarding the position in question.
Tem Blackburn, of the H. Leslie Perry Library Board of Trustees, spoke to the council in favor of the continuation of the Special Projects Manager position. He told members that discontinuing the relationship would negatively impact the “social capital” of the community.
Iris Dethmers, who spoke as a parent, teacher, and grant-writer, told the council that if they were to “get rid of the position, there would be eyes on [them]”. She said that breaking the relationship reflects on the council negatively.
After the public hearing on the budget was closed, the agenda was changed so that council member Mary Emma Evans could bring for the council’s consideration a vote regarding the position in question.
Evans immediately moved that the Special Project Manager be kept. The motion was seconded by council member Lonnie Davis.
Council member Elissa Yount inquired as to the terms and length of the contract under which the Special Projects Manager was loaned by the city to the Embassy Foundation.
Henderson Mayor Clem Seifert responded that costs are reimbursed by the Foundation. City Manager Jerry Moss told the council that the position is responsible to the Embassy Foundation and not to the city, and that the contract did not specify a length of time.
Yount asked to see the contract.
Davis modified the motion so that the contract would be continued in the “same vein” as it was before the position was eliminated from the as-yet-unadopted budget.
Moss sent for a copy of the contract. Although a copy of a contract signed in 2001 was retrieved, it is believed that another contract was signed in 2003 that superceded the 2001 contract. The 2003 contract was not located by council members during the meeting.
The 2001 contract may be viewed here.
There are two additional contracts, both of which were signed in November of 2003. The November 10, 2003 contract and the November 24, 2003 contract deal with land, property, and financial arrangements, but do not discuss the position of Special Projects Manager.
While waiting for the documentation to be located, Yount engaged in a discussion with City Attorney John Zollicoffer regarding Section 12 of the City Charter that states that the mayor must sign all contracts.
Zollicoffer indicated that exceptions have been made in the past.
Yount produced a copy of the charter for Zollicoffer to study. He also confirmed that Section 12 stated that the mayor must sign “as required by law or the city council”. He said there can be and had been exceptions in the past.
The 2001 contract was signed by former City Manager Eric Williams.
The 2003 contracts were not located until this morning by Zollicoffer.
“I think you’re making things too complicated,” Seifert told the council.
Council member Ranger Wilkerson stated that he was interested in seeing where the city had authorized the contract.
Council member Garry Daeke reiterated that the position was being reimbursed at no cost to the city, and that the issue was whether or not the council wanted to continue. He stated that it was a matter of policy.
Wilkerson introduced a substitute motion to put off the vote until the next council meeting, which had been rescheduled for June 19. That motion was seconded by council member Bobby Gupton.
Members Harper, Gupton, Yount, and Wilkerson voted for the motion. Evans, Alston, Daeke, and Davis voted against it. Seifert broke the tie by voting against the motion as well.
With the substitute motion defeated, the council then voted on the issue of retaining the Special Projects Manager position. Harper, Gupton, Yount, and Wilkerson voted against retaining the position, while Evans, Alston, Daeke, and Davis voted for retention. Once again, Seifert broke the tie by voting to retain the position.
There have been three tie votes during the tenure of this council. The first overturned the City Vehicle Use Policy written by City Manager Jerry Moss as pertains to the Henderson Police Department, while the second and third occurred last night. All have dealt in some way with personnel and policy issues, and in each case, Seifert has sided with the Evans-Alston-Daeke-Davis block.