Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss may be facing a censure by the Aldermen for hiring his son, Tony Poss last September to work at the golf course and swimming pool without the approval of the Board.
Members of the town council say Mayor Poss violated the city’s hiring and nepotism policies and should be held accountable. A workshop was held Thursday evening at city hall to discuss the matter but the mayor did not show up. All five aldermen were there including Jason Murphy, Shawn Jacobs, Gayla Hendrix, Danny Washer, and Josh Miller along with City Attorney Vester Parsley and City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson.
City records show that from September 1 to March 2, Tony Poss earned $300 per week (gross) for a total of $8,100. When the issue came to light on March 5, Tony’s employment with the city ended.
Although Tony was supposedly hired to mow the grass at the golf course, Mayor Poss admitted at the March 5 city council meeting that he (Tony) actually did other things.
“We had a problem and what he (Tony) has done, he has taken care of that golf course with what Riverwatch wasn’t doing. He (Tony) has protected us from freezing up. The pool was running low with no water being put in it. It wasn’t being maintained by the city and that wasn’t Ken’s deal (Ken Lacy of Riverwatch). This is what Tony did. He took care of the city’s property. Now it wasn’t mowing. That’s an error there,” explained Mayor Poss.
The aldermen are not satisfied with the mayor’s explanation and question whether Tony actually did any work to earn his salary. They want to know specifically what work was done there on a daily basis during the six months between September and March when there was little or no activity at the golf course and pool, except for the work the Riverwatch team was already contracted to do in refurbishing the course. “The things they (Riverwatch) weren’t going to do we were having Kevin Robinson’s department (Public Works) to do which were already city employees handling those issues,” said Alderman Hendrix.
According to the city’s “Nepotism Policy” the City of Smithville shall not show favoritism in the recruitment or employment of municipal employees nor in their supervision. Immediate family members of City officials, Mayor, and Department Heads shall not be employed by the City unless a clear business reason exists and the hire is approved by the Mayor”.
Under the city’s charter, All officers and employees of the city, except as otherwise specifically provided by ordinance, shall be appointed and removed by the Mayor, but only with the approval of at least two-thirds majority vote of the council present voting upon the appointment or removal, and the employees shall be under the direction and control of the Mayor”.
“I think any employee needs to come before us (aldermen for hiring approval) because we are ultimately liable for the city employees and we need to know who they are,” said Alderman Hendrix.
While they are limited in their authority on punishing the mayor, the aldermen say members of the public are outraged by his actions and many want him to resign. Others say Mayor Poss should apologize and reimburse the city for the money paid to Tony during the six month period in which he was on the payroll.
“I have had phone calls from people who are not happy about this and want to know what we are going to do about it. That is one reason I thought we needed to have a workshop because this is a violation of what is supposed to be done,” said Alderman Hendrix.
"This is an ethics complaint and under the city’s personnel policy we could bring it to our city attorney to do an investigation and give us an advisory opinion or we could hire a separate attorney to do an investigation. An elected official is then subject to punishment or disciplinary action according to the municipality’s charter or other applicable law in addition to censure by the governing body," Alderman Hendrix continued.
"Some people are asking for his head but I have told them I don’t think that is an option. But I think a little remorse and humbleness and an apology (from the mayor) would really go a long way. Most people are pretty forgiving," said Alderman Murphy.
"If it can be shown what was done to earn any of this money, I would be fine with him paying back the difference and issuing an apology,” said Alderman Washer.
“I think a censure from the board would be in order and in that censure we could request that the money be paid back. I don’t know if we have the authority to enforce it but we could request it as a board,” said Alderman Jacobs.
"I also want an assurance that city government is going to be more transparent. I am looking for city government to be more responsive and for us (aldermen) to have a better idea of what is going on," added Alderman Jacobs.
Although they apparently don't plan to oust the mayor or force him to resign over this even if they could, the aldermen have called for a special meeting for Thursday, March 22 at 7 p.m. at city hall to officially decide whether to censure the mayor or go further.