City council needs to decide residency issue before hiring clerk

Friday, April 12, 2019

A plan by the city to rush into the hiring of a new city clerk without resolving a residency issue does both sides a disservice.

City council members plan to vote Monday to hire current planning department clerk Nevada Young. Young currently lives outside city limits. City ordinance states the clerk must live in the city limits. Council members have been split on attempts to change this, with the majority voting against it.

The council will take the unusual step Monday of holding a special meeting to vote on the matter before Ward 1 representative Susan McVey leaves the council. A newly elected council member, Lisa Armes Parson, will be sworn in at the regular council meeting to be held immediately after the special meeting.

The vote is expected to take place without any resolution to the residency issue.

City manager Mark Massingham has said previous people have been given six months to move into the city limits. Young has not stated she wants to do this, and council members who oppose changing the rule have so far held firm.

We propose the council should name an interim city clerk until the residency issue is decided.

What happens in six months if Young decides not to move, and the council still does not want to change the ordinance? She will have been trained for the job by the outgoing clerk, and have given up her current job to do so. The city will be left without a trained clerk and Young will be left without a job.

We do not question Young’s qualifications, and we see value in both sides of the residency discussion. By living inside the city, the clerk feels every decision made by the council as deeply as its residents. Yet, the rule could also cost the city a qualified candidate because of a less than 13-square-mile restriction.

It’s certainly a tough decision, but hiring someone without making that decision will only make this situation more difficult, for the city, for Young and for residents.

The city clerk holds an important job, as we’ve said before, tasked with protecting the public by overseeing a correct record of city business.

This is not a decision that should be made because of the pressure of time.

Act in haste, repent in leisure, is a lesson we should have learned well already.

We should have learned it in 2014 and 2015, when Poplar Bluff had to pay out nearly $2 million in settlements after mistakes were found in the contract for the $17.5 million sale of the city cable company. That decision was quickly pushed through council ahead of an April election.

We also should have learned it in 2017, when the city decided to abandon $1.2 million worth of technology equipment it paid for during a hastily put together project because of a dispute with a Michigan IT company over how much the items should have cost.

Let’s face it, there’s a reason why Winston Churchill’s quote, “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it,” is so well known.

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