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Tensions Arise in Taylor Mill as Police Chief is Named Acting City Administrator

A proposal to appoint the police chief to the city administrator's role through the end of the year was met with pushback from some members of the city commission, while others argued that the tension in the building is the reason that longtime administrator Jill Bailey is leaving in the first place.

Bailey, after twenty-three years in Taylor Mill, most as city administrator, accepted the same position with Ft. Wright last week.

A special meeting of the Taylor Mill city commission was called for Wednesday night to prepare for Bailey's departure on May 18, in the middle of budget preparation season.

The commission moved to appoint Police Chief Steve Knauf as interim city administrator and increased his salary from $85,000 to $105,000 in the process. City Attorney Frank Wichmann will draw up an appropriate ordinance to stay within state law that prohibits individuals from holding those two positions at the same time.

In the past, Knauf has filled in for Bailey during vacations and regularly assists her in her duties.

Knauf said the city would not be disappointed with his work ethic.

Mayor Dan Bell proposed retaining Knauf as city administrator through the end of December, at which time a new board of commissioners may be in place after the November election to make a permanent hire. Candidates for Taylor Mill city commission and mayor do not file until August, so it is unclear which incumbents among the divided commission will pursue reelection.

Commissioners Sarah Frietch and Phil Peace disagreed with Bell's proposal while Commissioners Dan Murray and Mark Kreimborg urged the city to move forward with Knauf so that he could work with Bailey to complete as much of the next fiscal year's budget as possible.

Meanwhile, Frietch suggested that a job posting could be advertised on June 29 with resumes collected by July 20 and then a candidate could be picked after the subsequent interviews.

Bell did not want to hold the city to a strict schedule - suggesting that people applying for the job are going to want to know why the previous person department, and he said that if he was being truthful, at that point, some people may not want the job.

"I have done hundreds of interviews, and that is almost always a question candidates ask," said Bell. He indicated that some candidates might not want the job when they find out the tense conditions that Bailey had to work under.

What followed was an exchange about vacation time and kangaroo courts.

Bell asked if the process could start a week later than suggested since he was on vacation in the first week of July and Peace, who once flew back to Taylor Mill to attend a meeting about property he owned while he was away, said Bell could fly back, too, if necessary.

Bell said no one ever suggested Peace give up vacation.

"I seem to remember you had me fly home for a kangaroo court," Peace said.

"That is an out and out double lie!, Bell said."That assertion is false!"

"And that is the real reason why Jill is leaving," Commissioner Kreimborg said.

The audience in attendance applauded.

The incident Peace referred to happened before he was elected to commission, and a public hearing was held at the fire house concerning the property he owns, so Peace had to fly back for the hearing.

Commissioners agreed to start the advertising process on July 6, and to collect resumes till July 27. Then, till August 10 commissioners will review the resumes, and start interviews on August 10 through August 24.   

August 31 would be the goal to offer someone the position.

Peace said they will have to accelerate the process of getting the budget done so the commission can have a chance to go through it.

Frietch said she thought the budget should have been done already, but Bailey said they had a late submission from the fire department and that delayed the schedule.

However, she assured the commission that by her last day she would have a completed document and Chief Knauf would be able to take over and be up to speed on everything.

"Can't ask more than that," said Commissioner Murray. "I want to get as much of the budget done as possible. We have to concentrate on the budget. I want this transition to be as smooth as possible."

Following that, Frietch asked about the duties of the city administrator and about who was in charge of the various departments. Wichmann, the city attorney, said the city administrator oversees all departments. Frietch asked if that could be changed, and Wichmann explained that the set-up is part of state law.

After the meeting, some residents were generally not happy with the way the meeting had transpired. One resident, Ed Kuehne, a former commissioner, said he was embarrassed by the behavior of the commission.

At the next regular meeting, commissioners will listen to the first reading of the ordinance to allow chief Knauf to assume extra duties and increase his salary commensurate with those duties.   

They will also formally accept the resignation of Jill Bailey.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
Photo: Chief Steve Knauf talks with Jill Bailey at last year's 60th anniversary of the City of Taylor Mill (RCN file)