BAXTER SPRINGS — Tensions between the Baxter Springs City Council and Mayor Jenifer Bingham came to a head Tuesday night as the council voted 6-2 to restore City Clerk Donna Wixon to duty.
The vote came just two weeks after Bingham tried to oust Wixon and Police Chief David Edmondson by appointing Rodney Edmondson as clerk and Officer Rex Qualls as chief.
Both appointments failed by a 6-2 vote
On April 10, new Council Member Randall Trease moved to accept the nomination of Rodney Edmondson and Greta Day seconded. The motion failed 6-2 with only Trease and Day voting in favor.
Day moved to accept the Qualls nomination and Trease seconded and the same 6-2 vote left the nominations in limbo.
Councilman Mike Kaufman read a resolution which declared Qualls unqualified to be police chief. The resolution was not voted on at the meeting, as resolutions must be read twice before being voted on, but will be up for a vote at the next council meeting.
On Tuesday, the council amended the agenda to pass resolutions to hire Kevin Cure to represent the six council members who voted against the appointments of Rodney Edmondson as city clerk and Rex Qualls as Police Chief at a cost to the city for $5,000 for the first 25 hours and $175 per hour beyond that, a resolution to restore city clerk Donna Wixon to duty immediately and to debate a charter ordinance to remove appointment powers from the Mayor and put them in the gift of the city council as employees rather than yearly appointments.
As soon as Councilman Mike Kaufman moved to restore Wixon to her duties City Attorney Robert Meyers asked for a 20 minute executive session for attorney client privilege.
Upon return from executive session the council immediately voted on the return of Wixon to duty.
Wixon had been placed on paid administrative leave by Bingham one day after the meeting.
The council also passed, by 5-3 vote with Trease, Day and Ron Steele dissenting a motion denying Bingham the ability to place the city clerk or police chief on administrative leave without due cause and subject to council approval.
The council also directed Cure, who is the Galena City Attorney and Cherokee County Counsel to draw up a charter ordinance which would remove appointment powers from the mayor and make nearly all city department head positions subordinate to the council and the various committees.
Meyers informed the council there was already a charter ordinance in existence which the council had not taken action on last year which would simply need to be updated.
Late in the meeting Bingham appointed current Assistant City Clerk Debbie Weston as city clerk. The nomination failed by the same 6-2 vote as the previous appointments.
Kaufman then did the first read on a resolution to declare Weston unqualified.
Bingham demanded to know how the six councilmen knew who she would appoint and claimed to have photos of the six meeting at Kaufman's house.
It quickly became clear the resolution had been prepared in blank.
The council then moved to adjourn the meeting until 7 p.m. May 1 in order to allow the council, rather than the mayor to set committees and committee chairmen.