FRONTENAC — Half a year after they were fired at a contentious city council meeting, three former City of Frontenac employees have struck back with a federal lawsuit — against not only the city government, but each of the six council members who voted for their termination.
The plaintiffs in the case are Brad Reams, former Frontenac city administrator: Terri Kutz, former city clerk: and Tim Fielder, former city attorney. All three were fired at a Sept. 16, 2019, Frontenac City Council meeting, where Linda Grilz, the former mayor, also resigned.
“As I’ve said before, I think those people were fired for doing their jobs,” Grilz said Wednesday, adding that she hopes the suit results in their vindication.
The defendants, besides the City of Frontenac, are council members Pat Clinton, Mike Snow, Marc McCully, David Hogard and LaDonna Pyle, who are all still on the council, as well as John Macary, a former councilman and acting mayor between September and January of this year.
The complaint also includes extensive discussion and allegations regarding a city employee that it identifies only as “Ms. X,” but from the context it is clear this refers to Jayme Mjelde, who is the city clerk.
The complaint alleges that while “Ms. X” had previously been fired from her position as municipal court clerk for failing a drug test and refusing to comply with an agreement that would have allowed her to keep her job, the firings of Reams, Kutz and Fielder circumvented city policy.
Selection of interim replacements for the three fired employees — including Mjelde, who was not only reinstated but promoted to city clerk and awarded back pay for the week she was off work — was also done illegally, violating an ordinance “that required the position be advertised, application received, and applicants interviewed prior to the position being filled,” according to the complaint, which also alleges the same ordinance was violated in selecting John Zafuta, previously public safety director, as interim city administrator and later city administrator.
The complaint alleges “the defendant councilmembers made these selections during illegal private secret meetings outside of public scrutiny and prior to the September 16, 2019 City Council meeting and in violation of Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA).”
The City of Frontenac and the other six individual defendants in the case did not respond to requests for comment.