BAXTER SPRINGS -- The controversy over Mayor Jennifer Bingham's attempt to oust longtime City Clerk Donna Wixon and Police Chief David Edmondson continued Thursday, after Bingham placed Wixon on paid administrative leave Wednesday and had the locks at city hall changed.
Kansas League of Municipalities spokesperson Kim Winn said Bingham does have the authority to place employees on paid leave, but can be overridden by the council either at a special meeting, which Bingham has reportedly refused to call, or at the next regular meeting.
At Tuesday's city council meeting, Bingham had appointed Clerk of the Municipal Court Rodney Edmondson, who is running for Cherokee County Clerk, as Baxter Springs City Clerk, and Patrol Officer Rex Qualls as police chief.
The council has 45 days in which to take action on Bingham's appointments or they are deemed to have passed, according to state statute. If the council passes a resolution to the effect that Qualls and Edmondson are unfit or unqualified to hold the positions to which they have been appointed, then the current office holders retain their appointments. Winn said the mayor has no authority under Kansas law to veto a resolution, which needs only a simple majority to pass.
Additionally, so long as the measure has the required motion and second the mayor cannot refuse to call for a vote.
Bingham has refused to comment.
Chief Edmondson said he wasn't surprised by the attempt to remove him from office -- despite never having been reprimanded for job performance in 13 years as chief -- and said much of it stems from one disgruntled employee.
"Was I expecting not to be reappointed? Sort of," he told the CCNA. "I knew Rex Qualls and the mayor and those two council members [Randall Trease and Greta Day who both took office Tuesday night] were conspiring."
Edmondson said Qualls has divided his department and is upset over not having been promoted.
"The problem is Rex Qualls is a disgruntled employee," Edmondson said. "He's been passed over twice for promotion and he's upset about it.
"The last time he was passed over our mayor was in disagreement with the person who was promoted."
Edmondson said he thinks the attempted ouster has been in the works for some time now.
"When you have two council members whose seats aren't even warm yet and they're making personnel changes? This has been in the works for months," he said.
On March 6 of this year, Bingham sent a letter to the editor detailing alleged Kansas Open Meetings Acts violations by Councilmen Robert St. Clair, Don Underwood and Councilwoman Lori Wren.
Wren and Underwood, who was appointed by Bingham last year, were defeated in last week's city elections by Trease and Day.
The matter was referred to County Attorney John Bullard for investigation, who said he's unable to proceed.
"I still haven't been provided with any names or dates of instances," he said. "At this point I do not have enough to proceed with an investigation."