KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor Tyrone Garner and county commissioners held a special meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss the process for hiring a new county administrator position.
The meeting ended with Garner leaving as people shouted that they still had questions.
Garner introduced Cheryl Harrison-Lee back in January interim county administrator following the retirement of previous County Administrator Doug Bach, who served since March 2014.
Commissioner Angela Markley requested the special meeting. She said at the time of Harrison-Lee’s appointment, several commissioners expressed that a nationwide search for a permanent county administrator should be conducted.
Markley said, “commissioners have not yet received an update on the hiring process for this critical leadership position.”
“Ms. Harrison-Lee was appointed on an interim basis without the opportunity for a nationwide search and evaluation of potential candidates.”
Other commissioners also spoke expressing that there should be a nationwide search for the county administrator position as done in the past, and suggested Harrison-Lee apply so her name is in the search.
“We’re coming out of a global pandemic, which was in a very unstable moment for our community,” Commissioner Christian Ramirez said. “Past administration was able to maintain some form of stability. I think moving forward it’s important that we strive to continue that stability for our community.”
“Our community should have a voice,” Commissioner Andrew Davis said.
“Forget me, I want our community to have a voice on who the next, who the permanent county administrator is and I want time to be able to talk with my constituents about what they see, what they feel, what they’re experiencing in their neighborhoods. I want the people of Wyandotte County to feel a part of the process.”
Following the commissioners’ discussion, Garner spoke by first reading section 2-61 of the charter ordinance on “appointment and removal of employees; administration; forfeiture of office” which states: “neither the commission nor any of its individual members shall in any manner direct, supervise or require the appointment, promotion, transfer, assignment, demotion, discipline, suspension, discharge or removal of any officers or employee that the mayor, county administrator or any of their subordinates are empowered to appoint.”
“I think that speaks for itself,” Garner said after reading the ordinance.
Garner said he stands firmly with alignment with Harrison-Lee.
“She has been our administrator barely four months. She’s in the middle of doing an assessment, an audit of the Unified Government. We need to give her time to do the work that needs to be done,” he said.
“If you didn’t get the message loud and clear from this community that they wanted change, change is here, and it’s not going away,” Garner continued. “I’m not here to play politics as usual and I won’t.”
Garner also said he’s upset Harrison-Lee has to endure calls for a nationwide search when she hasn’t been able to work through the duration of her contract.
“I want her to feel confident in the work she is trying to do and it’s imperative that this mayor and the commission support her in that work,” he said.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because it was brought up out of order in a commission meeting. I’m not prepared to have that discussion, I’m not going to have that discussion until I’m ready. We will abide by the ordinance because that’s what we’re abound to be abide by. If we get to that bridge that we need to have a discussion about seeking a new administrator from a national search, I’ll definitely be sure to let you know.”
The mayor adjourned the meeting and left as attendees said they had unanswered questions.
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