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Plan to hire administrator discussed illegally in secret

Staff writer

Although no one has approved a plan to hire a long-discussed county administrator, commissioners Monday reviewed a plan to recruit one — even without a job description.

Commissioners discussed the proposal, presented by commission chairman Jonah Gehring, behind closed doors using the “personnel matters” exception to state open meetings law.

However, state law does not permit that type of discussion to be held in executive session because the personnel exception is intended to protect the privacy of individual employees.

“Recesses into executive session must be based on proper application of the justifications set forth in law,” said Kansas Press Association consulting attorney Max Kautsch. “Although personnel matters is one such justification, it may be used only when discussing specific employees in order to protect their privacy.

“Also the attorney general found in January 2018 that motions to recess into executive session must include something more than merely stating the justification listed in the statute. It is important for public bodies to comply with all aspects of open meetings laws so as to make sure the public can participate in our democracy.”

Gehring proposes to hire recruiting firm Osenbaugh Consulting to supply an interim contracted county administrator for February through July, 2021, at $50 per hour with no benefits, then hire a permanent administrator to start in July. Osenbaugh would be paid $11,000 for the administrator search.

The permanent administrator would be paid $50,000 for the second half of 2021 and $90,000 for 2022.

Don Osenbaugh, of Derby, who operates Osenbaugh Consulting, was interim Hillsboro city administrator when then-city administrator Larry Paine was diagnosed with cancer two and a half years ago.

He was later hired by Hillsboro to recruit a new city administrator when Paine retired.

Equipment, supplies, training, memberships, and miscellaneous expenses are estimated at $29,700.

The idea of hiring a county administrator was voted down by 55.3 percent of voters in a non-binding referendum in 2017.

Despite that election result, the commission has discussed an administrator several times since.

Last modified Nov. 11, 2020

 

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