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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission chair: His call to not have in-person reports

By Charlene Sims, info@linncountyjournal.com


MOUND CITY – After a noticeable absence last week and this week, Mon. June 3, of  department heads presenting department reports, Commissioner Jim Johnson asked why the health department was not there to report. Commission Chair Jason Hightower had been reading all of the reports.


Hightower asked the County Counselor Mark Hagen to explain. Hagen said there was no reason they couldn’t come in front of the commissioners and that it was the commissioners’ call if they wanted to have department heads talk to them. They certainly can do that.


“There have been a series of misunderstandings between commissioners and staff, so that we took a temporary pause on having the various department heads come and report,” Hagen pointed out. “Once those get resolved, I think it was the intention of the chairman, at least, and my recommendation is to certainly you can resume then but you need to take care of business first.”


Johnson asked who made that call.


Hightower told Johnson that County Clerk David Lamb and Hagen had advised him that they thought it would be in the best interest of the commission at this time, but he was the one who decided that.


Johnson said, “It’s not your call.”


Johnson asked Commissioner Danny McCullough if he thought it was Hightower’s call to make that decision.


“I feel like that if we’re going to have one, we need to have them all come in,” McCullough answered. “I don’t think it’s fair to them to drive down from Kansas City, Kan., and report, but we have department heads that don’t come in here and report at all. I mean how do we pick and choose?” 


Hightower said we were not picking and choosing.


Hagen pointed out to McCullough, “To your point, Danny, no one suggested that (American Medical Rescue) AMR come, I think the lady indicated she wanted to come.”


Hagen explained that when a board has a chairman, you have a first among equals and that one of the chairman’s jobs is to gather up and assemble the agenda the way the chairman wants to. Everybody gets a chance to be chairman and that was his call.


Hagen continued, “You can always move to revise the chairman’s decision, but I think it was his decision to do that. I say take care of old business. If you want to take care of the old business, we could always go into executive session but I think we’ve already covered that in executive session in the past.


”It’s a way of speeding up the commission meeting, making them a little more productive, a little more focused on the items that need to be taken care of right now and not take off on so many tangents. It may be a little disruptive initially but it lets the department heads focus on doing their jobs while this commission is meeting and doing its job to make decisions.”


Johnson asked McCullough how he felt about it.


McCullough answered that he was not opposed to everybody coming in and speaking for themselves.


Hightower said that he would like that too, but he would also like to not see them being attacked while they are in here.


Johnson requested that economic development director Jessica Hightower come in and speak to an issue. 


Johnson has made motions in the past to fire Jessica Hightower because her husband is commissioner and he considers it nepotism.


Later in the meeting, Public Works Director Shaun West came in to speak about other issues. 


In October 2023, West had refused to take or return phone calls to Johnson because of Johnson repeatedly calling him. Before that, West had filed a grievance against Johnson. Two other employees have also filed grievances against Johnson. Apparently, not one of the grievances have been resolved, or at least the county has not publicly disclosed the result of those grievances if they have been settled.



  

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