BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A Fort Madison City Councilman, who’s supportive of term-limits, wants a review of the Civil Service Commission terms and scope.
First ward City Councilman Chris Greenwald balked at approving a renewal of Duane Denning to a 6-year appointment to the commission. The agenda item was part of the consent agenda, which includes groups of regular items including paying bills, approving previous minutes, etc, that typically don’t require a debate at the meetings.
“I know Mr. Denning was on here when I started at least 1o years ago,” Greenwald said. “Whereas I do appreciate that service, I recently have come to concerns with it. The last year and a half to two years have been tough. And I think it would have been easier if we had a spirit of cooperation between us and the civil service board. But I don’t feel we had that.”
Councilman Rusty Andrews asked Greenwald what issue he was specifically referring to.
Greenwald said he was speaking specifically to an issue where the board had voted to be in support of an item and then was lobbied by the members of the Fort Madison Police Department and had a special meeting and reversed that position.
Greenwald said it was a decision to spend money to use a consultant to find a new police chief.
Mayor Brad Randolph said the commission was in favor of hiring a consultant and then reversed their position and recommended using in-house resources.
“I think if you search your memory, you will find you were lobbied,” Greenwald told Andrews.
“Actually then, they also lobbied Council members on that and I guess I don’t think that’s the function of the Civil Service board and at that time they really gave me the impression of being anti-city. Whereas I think their function is to be neutral and serve as a bridge between the city and public safety.”
Greenwald said he was not in favor of renewing Denning’s appointment.
Randolph asked if the boards are dictated by higher governance. Varley said the city code and section 400 of the Iowa Code dictates the function of the Civil Service Commission.
Randolph asked Varley to look into something that would outline the roles and expectations of volunteers who sit on recommending boards and commissions.
“I think that’s a good idea and we can do something like that for those boards,” Varley said.
Title 2, Chapter 11, Paragraph 2 of the Fort Madison City Code indicates Fort Madison Civil Service Commission terms are six years. Section 400 of the Iowa Code shows the terms are for four years.
Greenwald said he’s in favor of term limits and wasn’t going to run for his current City Council term.
“I was talked into this last term and I’m a term limits person. The Civil Service board is one of those, that when it is needed it’s serious…it’s big stuff,” Greenwald said. “It’s almost like they’re supreme court justices and they end up being on there for life. We should turn it over every once in a while. We should strive to do that. You know, 10 years is too long. I’m a term limits guy because you get too comfortable. You become overbearing and I think that’s perhaps what’s happened to this board. I’m very uncomfortable that they were led by the police department.”
Councilman Chad Cangas asked if it was specifically Mr. Denning or the commission in general that Greenwald had a problem with.
“I think it’s the commission in general, but Denning was highly involved in that decision, Greenwald said. This side of my brain says God bless the guy for all the time he’s put in, and part of my brain says I don’t appreciate it because we need to try and keep it fresher. This is painful.”
The council moved to table the issue and remove the appointment from the consent agenda, which Greenwald opposed, but it passed 4-1. Councilmen Kevin Rink and Travis Seidel were absent from the meeting.
In other action, the council:
• approved 5-0 to authorize a loan agreement in an amount not to exceed $2.7 million for the Blackhawk sewer construction.
• approved, 5-0, an agreement with the Iowa Dept. of Transportation to use TAP Funds for the Rodeo Park Trail Rehabilitation.
• approved 5-0 to purchase property at 1801-1805 Avenue L for $18,000. Varley said the property will be needed when the Hwy 61 reconstruction gets underway.