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Council votes in favor of city administrator


City Administrator Nathan Nickolas, right, shares his thoughts as Mayor Eric Struemph listens during a special session Friday afternoon in the Jefferson City Council Chambers.

City Administrator Nathan Nickolas, right, shares his thoughts as Mayor Eric Struemph listens during a special session Friday afternoon in the Jefferson City Council Chambers. Photo by Stephen Brooks.

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Council confidence vote


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The City Council has taken a vote of confidence in City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus in an effort to put to rest a controversy over an e-mail Nickolaus sent to city staff last week.

At a special meeting Friday of the City Council, all but two council members voiced their resounding support of Nickolaus after exploring the legality of an e-mail sent to city staff on Proposition 2.

Third Ward Councilman Bryan Pope and 4th Ward Councilwoman Carrie Carroll cast the only “no” votes on the question of confidence in Nickolaus as city administrator.

Carroll said she had no confidence based on the reaction she’s seen from the public. She said in the past few days, the comments she received were far more negative than positive and that is an issue that needs to be addressed, though she could not provide a solution.

“There may be some underlying problems,” Carroll said. “I do not have confidence ... I’m very frustrated.”

Pope apologized to council members, residents and Nickolaus for his remarks in the past week, saying he is “hot-headed” and acknowledging the mounting support for Nickolaus.

“I am sincerely sorry and very much regret what has transpired since the election,” Pope said. “I apologize to you, Nathan, for not addressing my issue with you directly and tone of my response.”

Pope said he believes the e-mail was wrong to send, but said he offered the motion of confidence in Nickolaus to give council members an opportunity to show their expectation of city upper management.

“In his hiring, I offered my opinion to the rest of you about Nathan’s credentials for the city’s administrative position. I thought then and still think it was unfair to ask him to leave a successful and promising career in municipal law without him having public administration credentials,” Pope said. “I believe a capital city as important as ours deserves a graduate level-trained public administrator with full credentials as such and with previous city management experience.”

On Tuesday, voters rejected Proposition 2, which would have

eliminated a 9.61-cent property tax contribution to the Fireman’s Pension Fund and replaced the funding mechanism with a dedicated quarter-cent sales tax for the Fire Department that would have sunset in 15 years. The tax was projected to raise $41 million and would have been spent across seven categories, including training and equipment.

Last Friday, Nickolaus sent an e-mail to all city employees on Proposition 2, contradicting a claim from supporters of the issue that no funds in the Fire Department’s budget could be diverted to other city departments. Opponents of the issue had suggested the city would divert money in the current department budget for other uses, which was vehemently denied by supporters.

Nickolaus’ e-mail stated the money presently spent on items in the Fire Department could be available for other departments with the passage of Proposition 2.

Nickolaus said the statements he made in the e-mail were truthful and his intentions were to serve the best interests of the city, though had he known the repercussions, he would not have sent it.

“My actions broke no law nor were they unethical,” Nickolaus said. “I’m also humbled by the outpour of support.”

Nickolaus said the council, and city, needs to move on and continue their work serving the public.

Fifth Ward Councilman Larry D. Henry Jr. echoed Nickolaus’ statements, saying instead of figuring out how to properly fund the Fire Department after the failure of Proposition 2, the council is wasting time doing damage control for something that could have been handled differently.

“I’d like to apologize to the public,” Henry said.

In a presentation to the City Council, city attorney Drew Hilpert said he had been asked to look into whether the e-mail violated city, state or federal laws. Hilpert said he found no violations and no line was crossed even when considering the “spirit of the law.”

“I don’t think you get anywhere near the metaphorical line,” Hilpert said. “I didn’t see anything that wasn’t factual (in the e-mail).”

At the request of Carroll and Mayor Eric Struemph, Hilpert said he also contacted the Missouri Ethics Commission and was told the commission could not give an opinion on that matter unless a complaint was filed with them. In that case, there would be a 90-day investigation and an administrative hearing.

Of the roughly 45 people who attended Friday’s meeting, more than 15 spoke during the public comment period, with all but one speaking in favor of Nickolaus.

That included one member of city staff, Cindy Lambert, who is listed as a paralegal in the city’s law department. Lambert said the employees of the city support Nickolaus and they are proud to call him “our” city administrator.

“Nathan has done an outstanding job,” Lambert said. “He is building up employee morale.”

Lambert at one point asked all staff members in attendance to stand if they supported Nickolaus. At least 20 stood up in the audience.

After public comment, 5th Ward Councilman Ralph Bray made a motion to go into closed session, which was defeated by a vote of 6-4.

ORIGINAL STORY, POSTED 5:21 P.M.:

The Jefferson City Council has taken a vote of confidence in City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus in an effort to put to rest a controversy over an e-mail Nickolaus sent to city staff last week.

At a special meeting of the City Council on Friday, all but two council members voiced their resounding support of Nickolaus after exploring the legality of an e-mail sent to city staff on Proposition 2.

Third Ward Councilman Bryan Pope and 4th Ward Councilwoman Carrie Carroll cast the only “no” votes on the question of confidence in Nickolaus as city administrator.

During public comments all but one speaker voiced support for Nickolaus on the issue, including one member of city staff who asked all staff members in attendance to stand if they supported Nickolaus. At least 20 stood up in the audience.

On Tuesday, voters rejected Proposition 2, which would have eliminated a 9.61-cent property tax contribution to the Fireman’s Pension Fund and replaced the funding mechanism with a dedicated quarter-cent sales tax for the Fire Department that would have sunset in 15 years. The tax was projected to raise $41 million and would have been spent across seven categories, including training and equipment.

Last Friday, Nickolaus sent an e-mail to all city employees on Proposition 2, contradicting a claim from supporters of the issue that no funds in the Fire Department’s budget could be diverted to other city departments. Opponents of the issue had suggested the city would divert money in the current department budget for other uses, which was vehemently denied by supporters.

Nickolaus’ e-mail stated the money presently spent on items in the Fire Department could be available for other departments with the passage of Proposition 2.

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