Kansas City’s new city manager responds to controversy over process of his hiring

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City has a new city manager, but that hire, made official Thursday, didn’t come without controversy. 

Brian Platt is already facing questions about how he was hired and actions he’s taken before he officially got the job.

Platt comes from Jersey City, New Jersey. An article published there by the Jersey City Times, taken down and now back online, fueled a whole lot of controversy about whether the job was already his before Thursday. Platt didn’t do anything to quell those questions when he confirmed to FOX4 Thursday he was already in town.

Since Troy Schulte left Kansas City for a similar position with Jackson County 13 months ago, Kansas City has been searching for his replacement. Four candidates came to town in recent weeks for interviews. 

Mayor Quinton Lucas formally recommended Brian Platt on Wednesday, saying he’d spoken individually to council members, and a super majority said he was either the top choice or tied for first.

“I’m proud to say it was one of the most transparent probably the most transparent hiring process we’ve had in history of Kansas City,” Lucas said in the meeting before Thursday’s vote on hiring Platt.

But the article first published earlier this week by The Jersey City Times with the headline “Kansas City Here I Come” raised eyebrows since the vote on hiring Platt wasn’t until Thursday.

“I was very offended to learn from a Jersey City newspaper that not only had Brian Platt been offered the position, he had accepted the position,” Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw said.

“It appears the fix has been in,” Councilman Brandon Ellington said.

Four council members voted against hiring Platt. Some said they were already concerned with his lack of experience compared to other candidates. The notion he may have spoken to the paper and scheduled meetings with area leaders in the metro before his hiring didn’t help the matter.

“This brings to me a question of the judgment of this young man,” Councilman Lee Barnes said.

Brian Platt responded to questions raised in the meeting shortly after his hiring by a 9-4 vote. 

“No one from City Hall spoke to them that I know of, so I’m not sure where that came from,” Platt said of the article.

Platt said he’d received no formal offer, but confirmed he’s in town and has meetings scheduled Friday.

“In anticipation, I decided to come to town in advance just to make sure I could hit the ground running,” Platt said.

Platt doesn’t take office until Jan. 4, 2021.

Lucas said he hopes the council can come together to work with Platt and no rifts will linger from the hiring process. But questions about legislative power already seem to be brewing. 

“This is not demeaning your character Mr. Mayor, but we are a Weak-Mayor form of government not a Strong-Mayor form of government. We are a Strong-Manager from of government,” Councilwoman Heather Hall told Lucas.

Right after hiring Platt, the city council voted to bar the city manager from entering into virtually any contracts not related to public health or safety or hiring anyone making more than $20 per hour until the end of April. But Lucas said in a previous interview with FOX4 he proposed those actions to try control costs during the pandemic. 

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