GREENVILLE – A Greenville City Council member is crying foul after one of his colleagues improperly sought support from a city employee for the upcoming election.
A city employee, who was not named, approached City Manager George Bosanic to relay concerns about contact he had with Councilman Larry Moss. Moss asked for help with his campaign for the Nov. 8 millage election.
Moss and Mayor Ken Snow are running against Stephen Eipper and Brian Greene for two four-year city council terms.
Councilman Mark Lehman brought the issue to light during the Sept. 6 council meeting. Bosanic contacted City Attorney John Gretzinger for advice and forwarded Gretzinger’s response to the council.
Moss said he called a friend asking for help on his campaign, but decided not to move forward with the issue because his friend was a city employee.
Gretzinger said city employees are not allowed to participate in certain activities, including issues related to ballot questions, at the workplace under the Hatch Act. Asking someone to work on certain activities might be inappropriate, but not illegal.
He said employees are not bound by the Hatch Act outside the workplace, however.
Council members denied Bosanic’s recommendation to discuss the issue in closed session. A discussion of the matter took place in open session.
“After looking at the Open Meetings Act, this (issue) does not fit within the guidelines to go into executive session,” Snow said in a letter he read aloud during the meeting.
He said Lehman handled the situation inappropriately at the Sept. 6 meeting.
Lehman said he believed Moss contacted the city employee at work about working on the campaign.
“If the call happened at work it probably shouldn’t have occurred,” Gretzinger said.
However, Gretzinger said the city isn’t liable for any legal problems resulting to Moss’s contact with the employee.
Moss said the discussion was tearing each other down.
“It’s heinous activity,” Moss said. “This is costing the city money and designed to embarrass council members.”
He believes his colleagues launched the effort to score political points.
“I want to go on the record and say I am not doing this for political points,” Councilman Lloyd Scoby said. “I want to move forward. We need to work again as a team.”
Scoby noticed documents about the issue use city employees as plural. He asked if more than one city employee was involved.
Bosanic then pointed out Snow has been communicating and interacting with city employees without Bosanic’s knowledge.
“That needs to stop,” Bosanic said.
The city charter lays out a structure for the council to communicate to most city employees through the city manager and makes the manager its first point of contact on city business.
“It’s a check and balance,” Gretzinger said.
Scoby said he does not want Bosanic to have to deal with issues like this.
“I want him to make Greenville a better place to live,” Scoby said. “We are tearing things down, not building things up.”
Scoby said he is on the review committee for Bosanic and that Bosanic has done a great job for the city.