Baxter Springs mayor announces her resignation - KOAM TV 7

Baxter Springs mayor announces her resignation

Residents arrive at Baxter Springs city council meeting on Tuesday April 24. Residents arrive at Baxter Springs city council meeting on Tuesday April 24.

Updated November 20, 2012:  Baxter Springs Mayor Jenifer Bingham has resigned.  She announced her resignation in a letter to the Galena Sentinel Times, which they have posted on their Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=451823818197366&id=142205375825880

Updated November 1, 2012 by Jordan Aubey:  City officials in Baxter Springs square off ahead of a citywide recall vote of three council members.

Mayor Jenifer Bingham alleges they violated state law.  It's a claim those members, along with some other city officials say, is nothing but a lie.

It is a recall - not an election.

City officials say the basis for the recall was some council members were allegedly violating the Kansas Open Meeting Act, or KOMA.

"It's a Kansas statute that states that certain subjects have to be discussed by the council  in an open forum," says the attorney for the councilmen, Kevin Cure.

Councilman Ron Costlow is one of three included in next week's recall vote.  Costlow says a few months ago the city clerk, while put on paid administrative leave by Mayor Bingham, went to the mayor pro tem's house.

"Because payroll was due that day, when she was put on leave, she was concerned about getting the city employees paid - could somebody do that - and what his concerns were at the point," says Councilman Costlow.

In a faxed written statement to us, Mayor Bingham says she has pictures of the alleged violation and has given the evidence to law enforcement.

"We felt that we had a case when they came into the city council meeting with information, six of them had information, the other two did not," says Kathy Bolek, a resident who supports Mayor Bingham.

Cure says there is no evidence because there was no wrongdoing.

"There's no possibility that she has that photograph and they've called upon her to produce that photograph, formally, during a council meeting, and if she had it it would be on a billboard in Baxter Springs," Cure says.

Printed messages from supporters of the recall and a newspaper editorial written by the mayor herself make no reference to the original reason for the recall.

"They've basically told people, and I've spoken to several that actually signed that petition, they're actually doing this so that the mayor can retain her appointment powers," says Councilman Costlow.  "It's not about KOMA violations.  It's staying at the top and people are saying 'I didn't read that.'"

Instead, there are accusations of unaccountability by council members and misuse of power and money.

Councilman Costlow and his attorney say lies produce more lies.

"If they vote these people out she's going to get away with it," says Cure.

A simple majority is needed to recall the council members.

Mayor Bingham today canceled an interview we had schedule with her after a meeting ran longer than expected.  She did, however, fax us a statement.

She also encouraged us to talk to her supporters, telling us she feels previous stories we've done about her were biased.

Mayor Jenifer Bingham's letter faxed to us November 1, 2012

Attorney Kevin Cure's letter to the Office of the Attorney General - Dated October 16, 2012

Updated June 21, 2012:  A new turn in the on-going turmoil in Baxter Springs city government.

We've told you that Mayor Jenifer Bingham and some council members have been at odds over some city appointments.

Now a citizens group has taken the first steps to begin the recall process for four council members claiming they violated the Open Meetings law.

The group is circulating petitions asking for a recall of Robert Saint Clair, Edwin McAfee, Gary Allen and Ron Costlow.

The council members have maintained that they've done nothing wrong.

Updated May 2, 2012:  It was a quick meeting last night in Baxter Springs, Kansas the city council met to hear the first reading of an ordinance outlining procedures for choosing city committees.

In recent weeks Mayor Jenifer Bingham has been at odds with some council members over the mayor's effort to appoint a new police chief and city clerk.

The meeting wrapped up in less than ten minutes.

Updated April 24 by Jordan Aubey:  Dozens of residents in attendance in Baxter Springs, Kansas prompt city leaders to move its council meeting to a different location.

Two weeks ago Baxter Springs' mayor proposed hiring different people for the city clerk and police positions.  The majority of council members voted against the move.

However, the city clerk was still put on administrative leave.

Tonight's regular council meeting was scheduled to be held at City Hall.  However, the chamber wasn't big enough to hold the crowd and the fire chief ordered the meeting moved to the city's community center.

The meeting briefly went into closed session for council members to discuss the rehire of the city clerk, and for her to be taken off paid administrative leave.  The motion passed its first reading.

Additionally, the majority of council members voted to require the mayor to first have the council's approval before putting a city employee on administrative leave.  That motion also passed first reading.

All motions now advance to second readings at the next city council meeting.

City council also presented a resolution to the mayor, saying the mayor's proposed new hires are not fit for office, because of lack of administrative experience.

Updated April 12 at 5:45 PM:  Rodney Edmondson has issued a statement saying he will not accept the position offered to him the Baxter Springs mayor.

Edmondson was asked to take the position of City Clerk on Monday.  He accepted the offer but told the mayor this morning he was changing his decision.

Edmondson will resume his duties as Baxter Springs Municipal Court Clerk.  Edmondson is also a candidate for the Cherokee County Clerk position.

Updated April 12 at 5:00 PM by Jordan Aubey:  The mayor of Baxter Springs, Kansas speaks about her decision to seek a new police chief and city clerk.

The proposed new hires go against what a majority of city officials want.

Two new city council members were elected by Baxter Springs residents in April.  As soon as they were sworn into office this week, these two council members, and only them along with the mayor, supported this rehire proposal.

The mayor also promptly ordered new doors locks installed at city hall.

At issue to many city workers is whether it's the mayor's right to fire and hire without proper explanation.

Mayor Jenifer Bingham says she has the city's best interests in mind.

"I'm the person that stood here and said this City Hall belongs to the people of Baxter Springs," says Mayor Bingham.  "And for a long time we've had people with their tight grip on it, and have not allowed the people to have their government transparent.  I am making this government transparent."

Chief of Police David Edmondson disagrees.

"There's been business conducted behind closed doors somewhere to get this all put together," Chief Edmondson says.

Edmondson sits with his job in question.

"I'm very worried - very worried," Edmondson says.

Edmondson says the mayor's idea to fire him could hurt the city.  The chief believes a wrongful termination could bring lawsuits.

The police chief also says the proposal is hurting his department.

The mayor wants to hire a current Baxter Spring's police officer as the new police chief.  Chief Edmondson says fellow officers are uncertain about the future.

After two new city council members were sworn into office Tuesday, Mayor Bingham proposed hiring a new police chief and city clerk.

"It's a power of appointment, so it's not a firing, they are just non-appointments," says Bingham.

The appointments will take effect unless council members who oppose the decision submit a resolution detailing why they disagree with the mayor's appointees.  That resolution must be filed within 45 days.

"As far as my job performance, I didn't know that there was anything wrong with my performance that would lead to me not being appointed," says Chief Edmondson.

I asked the mayor why she was appointing different people to the position.

"Because we are going in a new direction," Bingham told me.

I asked what the direction was.

"Well, sit back and watch," Bingham said.

After Tuesday's meeting the mayor also ordered new door locks at City Hall.  The mayor says there were too many keys floating around.

I asked who knew the locks were being changed.  The mayor said "no, because you're not trustworthy."

With that our interview ended, and the future of two city employees still in question.

The city's mayor has been in office for one year.

The police chief was hired 13 years ago.

Baxter Springs' city clerk is on paid administrative leave.

RAW VIDEO - Baxter Springs mayor with reporter Jordan Aubey (4/12/2012)

RAW VIDEO - Baxter Springs police chief with Jordan Aubey (04-12-2012)

Reported April 11, 2012 by Zach Fletcher:  Baxter Springs council members claim they are unwelcome at City Hall.  Members say this comes after they did not pass motions to replace the police chief and the city clerk.

At Tuesday night's city council meeting Mayor Jenifer Bingham appointed two new council members who were then approved by the city council.

Those new members then motioned to remove the police chief.  The council denied the removal.

The new members then motioned to remove the city clerk, Donna Wixon.  Again, the council denied the removal.

We went to City Hall Wednesday afternoon and saw the locks being changed.  But Mayor Bingham says those were by appointment and that it is not a story.

When we contacted the locksmith, they would not comment on when the appointment was made.

A council member says changing the locks was never discussed.

Council members are also trying to get a special meeting together but say it might not happen.

"You got to get the mayors signature and I guess probably won't get that until - we probably won't have a special meeting probably until next council meeting, two weeks from last night," says councilman Robert St. Clair.

The councilman also says says City Clerk Donna Wixon was put on leave this morning.

John Archer is a business owner in Baxter Springs and he says this is a terrible situation for the city.

"It is going to require new leadership," Archer says.  "The current leadership there is neither a capability, integrity, ability to carry on.  There has to be new leadership in this community."

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