BAXTER SPRINGS — Sparks flew at last week’s Baxter Springs City Council Meeting following a letter written by Baxter Springs Mayor Jenifer Bingham accusing three council members of Kansas Open Meetings Act Violations.
In the letter Bingham accused Councilmen Don Underwood, Robert St. Clair and Councilwoman Lori Wren of multiple violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.
“The said council (members have) repeatedly been in violation of KOMA (Kansas Open Meetings Act) holding illegal, private meetings, congregating before/after council meetings in violation of quorum regulations and has been reminded/reprimanded on numerous occasions resulting in the city attorney being forced to submitting information to the Cherokee County Attorney’s office for investigation,” Bingham stated in the letter.
At the meeting the council members took exception to the allegations.
“Each and every accusation in this article as it relates to me personally is false,” Underwood said in a prepared statement. “I have never had, nor do I now have a personal agenda while working for the city.
“In the end my decisions and actions are always based on what I believe is in the city’s best interest.My reputation in my life long hometown and city I love have been permanently damaged by these accusations I am amazed at how easy it was to do. Please rest assured my integrity remains uncompromised.
Wren likewise took exception to the characterization.
“The allegations against me that were made in the paper are not true either,” she said. “I do the best I can.
“The people that know me … know what the truth is.”
St. Clair also took the mayor to task for the statements in the letter.
“I’ve been accused of something that I have not done,” he said. “My primary concern here … I believe in helping the people of Baxter Springs.
“These false allegations will come out.”
Bingham responded to the three council members saying her letter had done what she intended, sparking discontent within the standing room only audience.
“It looks like my letter served its purpose because we have people now encouraged to do good things for the city so my purpose was served,” she said, then asking for a motion to adjourn.
Wren refused and fired back: “The purpose of your letter was to hurt people and it wasn’t true.
It wasn’t to help the city. Everyone here has worked hard
“I have worked on this council for five years and accomplished a lot, and for you to say that was totally uncalled for again.”
Bingham was then able to close the meeting.
Earlier in the meeting the council heard from Gwain January of Southeast Kansas Independent Living who offered to assist the city with a transition plan for Americans with Disablities Act requirements.
He stressed having a plan in place would help when there are changes on the council, making council members aware of what had been done in the past.
Councilman Ron Steele also reported he was getting a price on a handicapped chair lift for the city pool.
The council also tabled an ordinance making it illegal to plant cottonwood trees on city property and making it legal to remove the trees on their own property.
The council also approved hiring Corey Mallory as a part-time dispatcher for the Baxter Springs Police department.