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City’s admin committee reviews complaint
June 26, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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After an additional review of proceedings involving a code of conduct of complaint, members of the Gering Administrative Committee decided to take no action during their June 19 meeting.

An investigation was launched after city council member Jill McFarland filed a complaint with the city over inappropriate comments and behavior from fellow council members Dan Smith and Don Christensen during several council meetings. The contention arose over the council’s deliberations over a proposed meatpacking plant for the city. And from that arose a request from McFarland to update the city’s policy for communicating with other staff members.

Members of the Admin Committee had reviewed transcripts and videos of the council meetings in question. At their May 29 meeting, and after an extended closed session, they voted not to pursue action because many of McFarland’s allegations were open to interpretation.

Attorney Audrey Elliott, who is handing the case for the city, asked for another meeting to clear up a procedural matter. She said state law is unclear whether elected officials must be treated the same as employees when it comes to closed sessions, which are mainly used to discuss personnel matters.

“I thought it would be best to have a session out in the open,” Elliott said. “If anything else needs to be said regarding the matter, we should go ahead and do that here.”

Committee members unanimously agreed the allegations were open to interpretation and didn’t constitute a direct violation of the city’s code of conduct. And because no new information was presented, they voted to drop the matter entirely. Their recommendation was forwarded to the city council for final action.
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