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Marion’s pool letter misstates facts

Staff writer

A Feb. 10 letter from Marion city attorney Susan Robson to Marion school board members clearly states the city no longer plans to assist with bond payments for, or the operating expenses of, the community’s pool.

Despite Robson’s claim that “the original financing for the bonds called for the bonds to be paid off in 10 years,” the city’s own records tell a different story.

Robson’s letter was provided to Marion County Record by the school board.

The city provided documents to the newspaper at a cost of $163.22 — including four hours of research time at $36.18 an hour. Those documents include a draft of a 2006 city resolution.

Robson told the school district that the city never voted on the resolution.

That resolution said, “The city of Marion has … agreed to participate in the financing, building, and operation of said pool structure by paying USD 408 $100,000 for a period of 17 years.”

Robson’s claim that the resolution was not voted upon contradicts documentation the city provided lenders in 2010 during bond refinancing.

“Why is the city promulgating this wrong information about the bonds?” Kansas Press Association attorney Max Kautsch asked.

Kautsch speculated the reason could be incompetence or corruption.

He also said the price the city charged the newspaper to comply with an open records request was too high.

He wondered who did the research for the request and where the city came up with its charge of $36.18 an hour.

“This is bogus. It shouldn’t have cost you this much,” he said. “It’s probably not reasonable.”

One of the documents provided by the city is apparently a memo from city administrator Roger Holter to council members.

That memo said a 2006 interlocal agreement between the city and the school district contains a termination clause where either party can end the agreement, with or without cause, upon 180 days’ written notice.

The city provided the Record with only the front and signature pages of that interlocal agreement.

School superintendent Aaron Homburg provided the full document.

The document does state that the agreement can be terminated on 180 days’ notice, “however, in the event any letter agreements contain specific time periods for performance of the parties, these letter agreements shall remain binding on the parties by their terms unless otherwise terminated by written agreement.”

The interlocal agreement also calls for disputes to be resolved by the city administrator and superintendent “as expeditiously as possible.”

The city has made efforts to keep the public from knowing the details of what is going on between the city and the school district.

Holter wrote in a Feb. 5 email to city council members that “mayor David (Mayfield) wanted this shared as confidential with city council:”

“Since 2005, the city has invested $2,053,000 in the community asset in land, aquatic features, operational, and debt service. This asset is valued at $879,000, of which the city does not have any equity position. Lacking a participation position in this partnership, it is believed that discontinuing this annual donation program is in the best interest of the citizens of the city of Marion.”

The secrecy on the part of the city contradicts Holter’s emails to Homburg. In an Oct. 6 email, Holter wrote, “The city simply wants full transparency in this joint operating agreements and true advanced dialogue occurring on decisions that have material impacts on requests for public funds. You and I still need to meet and discuss a revision or discontinuance of the operational support agreement that expired in 2010 and has continued under gentlemen’s agreements.”

In fact, the agreement did not expire. The document, signed by Mayfield in his role as city administrator, states only that it could be revised.

Robson wrote in her letter to school board members that she’d “taken the liberty of looking through the documents surrounding the pool.”

She said the bonds were refinanced by the school district and extended beyond the anticipated 10 years, which gave the school a savings in interest.

The school district did refinance the bond in 2015. An online municipal securities database shows the original and refinanced bonds have the same end date of 2023.

Last modified Feb. 18, 2021

 

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