Bellevue’s City Council on Tuesday night was granted the controversial power of removing an elected official from office.
Mayor Rusty Hike twice broke 3-3 ties to add removal of office to a list of disciplinary actions that can be taken against elected officials for misconduct. His first vote allowed the council to reconsider its vote from Dec. 3 to pass the measures while his second passed the full list of sanctions, removal of office included.
Council members Thomas Burns, Bob Stinson and Pat Shannon voted no while Paul Cook, Don Preister and Kathy Welch voted yes.
The council previously voted on the misconduct proposals at its Dec. 3 meeting, but removal of office was removed as a possible sanction after Burns’s motion to eliminate that sanction passed. The ordinances outlining misconduct sanctions ultimately passed 5-1 with Shannon the only no vote.
Shannon’s no vote played a role in why Welch asked the council to reconsider the vote, she said. Welch was one of four council members on Dec. 3 to vote in favor of amending the proposal to eliminate removal of office as a possible sanction, joining Burns, Stinson and Shannon.
During Tuesday’s meeting, she read from a statement that laid out three reasons why she wanted the removal of office vote reconsidered. In addition to Shannon’s no vote on the overall ordinance, which she said made the council miss an opportunity to send a unified message, she said Shannon attacking Hike’s integrity to local media and employees who “feel powerless to challenge the bad behaviors of a council member” also prompted her to ask the council to reconsider.
“It seems our compromise did nothing to calm the waters, but merely served to embolden our council member in his destructive shenanigans,” she said.
While she was reading the statement, Shannon vehemently objected to what he considered personal attacks, including a reference Welch made to Shannon’s campaign violations in 2004.
“This has no bearing on what’s before the City Council here tonight,” Shannon said. “This is just pure inappropriate.”
Shannon was fined $16,000 in 2006 by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission for eight campaign violations. The fine was settled in late 2017.
City Attorney Bree Robbins recommended Welch omit Shannon’s name as Welch read her statement. Welch agreed and continued to read the statement but didn’t reference Shannon by name.
“I want to restore civility to our public life in Bellevue, restore pride in our community and reduce the consistent embarrassment inflicted on Bellevue by the antics we have continued to endure,” she said.
Cook brought forth the same amendment he proposed at the Dec. 3 meeting to add removal from task force and removal of role as council president. That amendment passed unanimously.
Hike said he broke the 3-3 ties because he wanted to keep information from executive sessions safe and keep council members from demeaning city employees.
“This ordinance will take care of that,” he said.
Welch and Hike declined to identify if Shannon or any other council members was the reason for the misconduct proposal. Welch said city employees had told her there were previous problems with a council member’s misconduct and nothing could be done.
“If you review some City Council video will see disparaging comments made to directors,” she said. “It was to take care of all of it.
“This gives (employees) the opportunity to work in a safe environment.”