The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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February 13, 2014

Mark Rohr believes Joplin City Charter allows him to challenge dismissal

City Attorney said Rohr not entitled to hearing

— Joplin’s fired city manager said Thursday that he believes the city charter provides for a further hearing for him, but that he will seek legal advice before deciding whether to ask for one.

The city charter contains a section outlining the steps for removing a city manager that includes a provision for a personnel hearing.

But City Attorney Brian Head said Mark Rohr’s dismissal by resolution of the City Council adhered to an employment agreement, or contract, for Rohr’s employment.

Asked whether that contract conflicts with city charter provisions for removing a city manager, Head said, “I don’t think there is any conflict at all because the charter is for termination with cause and the contract provides for termination without cause.”

Rohr, asked whether he believes he is entitled to a hearing, said: “I believe that under the charter I am. The charter is the constitution of the city. I do not believe a contract or any individual attorney can countermand what the charter says.”

Section 2.07 of the charter states that the city manager serves for “an indefinite term, and he may be suspended by a resolution which shall set forth the reasons for his suspension and proposed removal.”

The manager has 15 days after being served with the resolution to reply in writing, “and upon his request, he shall be afforded a public hearing which shall occur not earlier than 10 days nor later than 15 days after such hearing is requested.”

The section concludes that after a public hearing is held “and after full consideration, the council by majority vote of its members may adopt a final resolution of removal.”

The resolution presented Feb. 4, approved by five of nine council members, reads that Rohr was immediately terminated without cause “pursuant to Section 3(A) of the agreement” between Rohr and the city.

The Globe filed an open-records request Feb. 6 for documents regarding the investigation that resulted in Rohr’s dismissal, including his contract or terms of employment.

City Clerk Barbara Hogelin’s reply to the Globe’s open-records request was received Tuesday. It was a form letter in which she said it could take several days to several weeks to provide the documents.

Head and Hogelin on Wednesday both said they believed some records would be available Thursday. None were received.

Members of the City Council have said the investigation, which they hired an outside attorney to conduct, was to have centered around ethics questions involving Councilmen Bill Scearce and Mike Woolston, as well as how Scearce came to be in possession of a note in Rohr’s handwriting that Rohr said had to have been taken from his desk.

Instead, about a third of the investigation report was said to have centered on Rohr. That part of the report has not been disclosed to the public. The city has taken the position that it is a personnel record.

Rohr said his firing was related to complaints by employees and former employees. He also was asked to provide his part of the report to the Globe, but he has declined to do so until he talks to an attorney.

Asked on Thursday whether he intends to ask for a personnel hearing, Rohr replied, “I’m going to consult with my attorney.” He said he views Head’s contention that the council’s action was in proper form as “inconsistent with the charter.”

Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg, who presented the resolution to fire Rohr in open session during the Feb. 4 meeting, was asked by the Globe this week who prepared the resolution. He said an attorney, Karl Blanchard, was in the closed session that night, and that he asked Blanchard for it.

He said Blanchard was there to represent the council because Head, the council’s legal adviser, had become a witness during the investigation.



Probe

THE REPORT CLEARED Councilman Bill Scearce of any misconduct but said further investigation was warranted with regard to transactions between Councilman Mike Woolston and the city’s contracted master developer.

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