‘I haven’t had a chance to do anything’
The Riverside City Council had a contentious meeting Monday night. The councilors’ first debate of the night came just a few minutes into the meeting when the council decided to table an agenda item about the city administrator’s performance.
The vote was 3-2 to table the agenda item. Councilors Chris Kirkwood, Kevin Kiene and Nate Kasdorf voted in favor of the motion while Bob Schneider Jr. and Ralph Schnoebelen voted against it.
City Administrator Rusty Rogerson asked that the item be on the council’s agenda. At the council’s Jan. 7 meeting, Rogerson said that certain councilors had a problem with his work and he wanted to address those concerns at the next meeting.
Kirkwood motioned to table Rogerson’s agenda item because the city attorney was not present. Schneider did not see why the council needed to have its attorney there.
“How are we going to benefit from a lawyer being here?” he asked.
Schneider said that whether the council went into a closed session to discuss Rogerson’s performance was up to Rogerson.
Schneider said he was disappointed in the council because he felt it did not learn anything from its goal-setting sessions last year.
“We’re going right back to the same stuff we did a year ago,” he said.
Kirkwood said she made a phone call to the League of Cities and heard that the council should have its attorney present for an employee evaluation whether it’s in closed or open session.
Rogerson raised his hand to speak on the matter, but after having waited a few minutes he stepped down from the dais and spoke at the podium. He said that the agenda item was not a performance evaluation, which would happen in February.
“This was about Ms. Kirkwood’s concerns about my performance, and I wanted to address those,” Rogerson said. “I don’t want a closed meeting.”
Rogerson said there seemed to be some confusion on the council about what a city administrator does.
“You hired me as a city administrator. I’m not sure some of you understand what that means,” he said. “It appears that part of the concerns are so deep in minutiae that I consider it micromanaging.”
Rogerson also suggested the council does not use its time wisely during meetings.
“There are 15-minute discussions over a bill for $100, on the same expenditure where $300,000 was transferred from a local bank to Hills and not one question was asked. Wow,” he said.
“I came here with great hopes that I could do good things for the citizens,” he continued. “I haven’t had a chance to do anything. I’ve been so busy, along with Ryan [Schlabaugh] and Lory [Young], trying to figure what has happened in the past. The lack of documentation has made it just impossible.”
Rogerson said he has worked since August to reconcile the city’s finances. He said he hired a retired banker to come to city hall at night to reconcile bank statements.
Rogerson said he was not going to operate like earlier city administrators and clerks, namely former city administrator Tina Thomas and former city clerk Missy Carter.
Another issue the council took up was whether to reappoint its city attorney, Les Lamping. The council voted 3-2 to approve Lamping’s reappointment. Kirkwood, Kiene and Kasdorf voted in favor of the motion while Schneider and Schnoebelen voted against it.
Schneider said he thinks it takes Lamping too long to finish the assignments the city gives to him. He said Riverside would be better off if it hired another law firm. Mayor Bill Poch said he thought Lamping has “dropped the ball” on a few legal matters, too.
Kirkwood said the reason those issues have taken so long to resolve was not Lamping’s fault and that it had more to do with the council being unable to make up its mind.
Kasdorf pointed out that Lamping charges $75 an hour, which is significantly less than the other attorneys who quoted a price for the city, all of whom charged $130 an hour or more. Kiene said he had the chance to testify in a trial involving Lamping and that he was impressed with Lamping’s performance.
The council approved a motion to rent land west of town for a welcome sign. The council entered into a 20-year lease with Wilbur Mast. The city would pay Mast $300 a year and would be responsible for maintenance.
The vote to rent the land was 3-2. Kirkwood, Kiene and Kasdorf voted in favor of the motion while Schneider and Schnoebelen voted against it.
During citizens’ time, Mayor Bill Poch read a letter from Paula Walton, who wrote in support of Rogerson and advised the council not to micromanage him or deputy city clerk Lory Young.
The council voted 5-0 to accept a bid of about $24,000 from Sexton Construction to remodel the “south room” in city hall. However, that bid does not include the flooring, which will be done separately. The Riverboat Foundation is supplying $20,000 while the city will contribute the remaining $4,000.