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Committee declines action on conduct complaint
June 06, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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After an extended closed session at its May 29 meeting, members of the Gering Administrative Committee voted to not pursue action on a complaint filed by council member Jill McFarland.

On April 28, McFarland filed a complaint with the city over inappropriate comments and behavior from fellow members Don Christensen and Dan Smith during several council meetings.

McFarland had earlier said the conduct was in conjunction with two issues the council had been discussing: the proposed meatpacking plant in Gering and the resultant request from McFarland to update the city’s policy for communicating with other staff members.

In an earlier statement, McFarland said she wasn’t happy with the way things stand now and that the last thing she wanted is publicity.

“If I could have resolved this on my own, I would have,” the statement read. “It seemed no matter what I said, things continued to escalate. I had run out of options and the thought of enduring this for months to come was quite simply unbearable.”

After coming out of executive session, Admin Committee vice chair Larry Gibbs said they there was no standing for the complaint and they would recommend the full council drop the matter.

Attorney Audrey Elliott conducted the investigation for the city, reviewing transcripts and video recordings of council meeting. She also read through emails regarding the matter and interviewed both Smith and Christensen.

“There was no formal violation of the city’s code of conduct,” Elliott told committee members. “So no further action is recommended.”

After the meeting, Gibbs said that if future allegations arise, they will have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. “As Rodney King asked, can’t we all just get along?” Gibbs said.

In her earlier statement, McFarland wrote that no matter the outcome, someone would have been unhappy. But she was also optimistic.

“I believe it is incumbent upon us to conduct the business of the city with decorum and courtesy towards our constituents and each other,” McFarland said. “I am optimistic things will turn around and we can focus our energy on the things that matter, instead of worrying about what each other does or believes.”
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