Nine residents attended the Franklin City Council meeting this week to voice concerns over the November hiring of the former mayor, Jeremy Kimpton, as city administrator.
Kimpton stepped down as mayor Nov. 14 when the council voted to hire him to be the full-time administrator. Several residents later complained about the council’s decision to create the position and then hire Kimpton without posting the job.
However, Mayor Todd Hawkes, who was appointed in November, said there is a disconnect between what councilmembers and residents think the city administration position entails.
City attorney Wayne Caldwell also says the city handled the change in accordance with the law.
Resident Tom Midzinski claims the process was not done according to Idaho code. After passing out an envelope with a packet of pages to councilmembers and the audience, he read a statement saying the council had placed an additional tax burden on city residents, failed to follow Idaho code instructions for implementing a council-manager plan and ignored guidelines for ethics.
“Upon looking into this matter in depth, we have discovered for ourselves that our trust in our elected officials here has been greatly displaced, as the free voice of the people here, as provided for in the Constitution, has not been afforded us,” Midzinski read.
According to the minutes of the November meeting during which Kimpton stepped down as mayor and was hired as city administrator, Kimpton, as mayor, told the council that money would be shifted from other areas of the city to pay the salary and benefits for the position, which add up to about $59,000 a year. However, Kimpton says the salary is just $40,000 and does not include benefits.
Hawkes, who has been on the council for 11 years, said councilmembers have considered hiring an administrator in the past. With the growth the city is seeing, now seemed the right time to hire an administrator, he said.
Councilmembers discussed the change with the Association of Idaho Cities, which suggested the move, he said.
Idaho Code 50-204 states the mayor may appoint “officers as may be deemed necessary for the efficient operation of the city,” with the consent of a city council.
Midzinski also alluded to ethics violations in his packet by including a photocopied page of the Idaho Ethics in Government Manual, which has a section circled detailing that public officials working for a city, county, district, precinct or legislature “must not be interested in any contract made them in their official capacity.”
In the November minutes, Kimpton said he was very interested in the position of city administrator after the council passed a motion to create the job but would have to step down from being mayor before being hired.
However, the ethics code also states a public officer can show a remote interest in a contract “if the fact and extent of such interest is disclosed to the body of which he is an officer.”
Caldwell, Franklin City’s contracted attorney, told The Herald Journal everything was done legally.
“As far as the legal perspective they may have a different opinion, but it doesn’t mean it’s not legal,” he said.
Glen Seamons, a resident who also spoke to the council Wednesday, asked questions regarding how the city government’s structure changed when an administrator was hired. He said that from the job description provided, it looks like the administrator, an appointed officer, will be in charge of the city.
“We have to have transparency,” Seamons said. “We have to be able to vote for you guys based on what you do, and if there’s confusion between the administrative mayor council, and over who’s in charge of what, and we’re not made clear on what the position is, then where’s the accountability? Where’s our vote?”
Caldwell said the residents are mixing up their definitions of a council-manager form of government and a city administrator. The mayor and council members have full-time jobs, and so are not able to answer questions all day, he said.
“It’s not a city manager form of government,” Caldwell said. “An administrator is there to be eyes on the ground and report back to the mayor and city council.”