With a new chairman in place, some members of the Leavenworth County Commission argued for reversing actions taken by the previous commission.

With a new chairman in place, some members of the Leavenworth County Commission argued for reversing actions taken by the previous commission.

Doug Smith, who was elected to the commission in November, began his term Monday. And he was chosen to serve as the chairman for 2017.

With Smith as the chairman, commissioners voted to reverse a decision made earlier in the day before the old commission had adjourned.

Smith also proposed rehiring David Van Parys, an attorney who recently was fired by the commission.

Commissioners ended up delaying action on the possible rehire of Van Parys to allow staff to review the possible financial and legal ramifications of such action.

Smith represents the County Commission’s 3rd District which includes the cities of Basehor and Tonganoxie.

Smith defeated former Commissioner Dennis Bixby in an August Republican primary. Smith then ran unopposed in the November general election.

Bixby was on hand Monday morning when the old County Commission met for a final time.

After the old commission adjourned, Smith and several returning elected officials in the county government were sworn in for new terms.

The swearing in ceremony was presided over by District Court Judge David King.

“I’m going to do my best to change the culture of the County Commission,” Smith said after reading the oath of office.

Smith said he wanted the commission to have more transparency and fewer closed-door executive sessions.

When the new commission convened, commissioners took up several reorganization matters including the selection of chairman.

Commissioners decided to continue meeting on Monday and Thursday mornings, at least for now. But attorneys for the commission will look into whether commissioners can legally change their schedule later in the year.

Commissioners agreed to meet Wednesday this week instead of Thursday. That is because Smith is scheduled to be in Topeka on Thursday for training from the Kansas Association of Counties.

Smith asked commissioners if they wanted to revisit an action taken by the old commission earlier in the day.

Commissioners had voted 2-1 to not approve administrative leave for employees of the County Treasurer’s Office who left early Dec. 30 after completing year-end business.

County Treasurer Janice Van Parys wanted to approve a half day of administrative leave for her employees. But Human Resources Director Tamara Copeland said the treasurer does not have the authority to grant administrative leave.

Employees were instructed to use vacation time or not be paid.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber voted against the earlier motion. Smith did not participate in the vote because he had not yet been sworn in.

Commissioner Bob Holland, who voted for the earlier motion, later told Smith he did not wish to revisit it.

But Smith made a motion for approving administrative leave for the employees of the Treasurer’s Office.

“So you’re in favor of going against county policy already,” Holland said.

Smith said the commission can grant administrative leave.

The motion was approved 2-1 with Holland voting against it.

Smith then made a motion to reinstate the ability to remotely listen to commission meetings.

Information Systems Director Larry Malbrough later explained that department directors previously had the ability to listen to audio of the meetings on their computers. But this was discontinued about two or three years ago.

As part of Smith’s motion, he also asked that Malbrough look into the cost of live streaming the meetings for the public.

The motion was approved 2-1 with Holland voting against it.

Graeber said he would like for the commission to contact former Public Works Director Mike Spickelmier to see if he would be interested in overseeing road projects that were promised as part of an extension of a countywide sales tax.

Spickelmier was terminated last year by the County Commission.

Holland said he believes county policy does not allow people to be rehired after they have been fired for cause.

Graeber said this policy can be overturned.

“You both continue to break county policy,” Holland said.

Instead of hiring Spickelmier, Smith proposed reinstating David Van Parys to manage the sales tax projects.

David Van Parys, who is married to the treasurer, was terminated by the commission last month after he worked for 26 years as the county counselor.

The county counselor’s position has since been filled.

Smith proposed appointing David Van Parys to the position of senior county counselor. Smith said the position can be paid for with money from the sales tax fund.

Graeber seconded the motion.

Financial Administrator Mark Loughry said commissioners have the ability to set aside policy at any time.

He argued that if commissioners want to repeal actions of the previous commission, staff members need time to prepare.

Loughry said staff members need to look at the potential financial and legal implications of rehiring David Van Parys.

Commissioners voted unanimously to have staff review the issue.

Commissioners did not approve a motion made by Holland to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters.

“I do not want to start my first day with an executive session,” Smith said.

Smith said he did not know what issue Holland wanted to discuss.

Holland said he wanted to go into executive session to provide information about the issue.

Smith said the motion died because another commissioner did not provide a second.

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