By Allen Edmonds
As anticipated, late this week I had the opportunity to sit down with Norman Larkey, the recently deposed fire chief.
I say “deposed,” because honesty is required in situations like this. He had choices. He could resign and accept a severance package that would pay and extend his benefits through September, or he could be fired.
He took an option he wasn’t offered, but one that put the City of Belton on notice. He resigned, but refused the severance package. Accepting the severance would have required him to agree to go quietly. Larkey wanted to be able to speak freely, and that he did on Thursday morning.
The details of that conversation will wait until next week. Not because I want to play the “60 Minutes” game and tease my audience, but rather a much more real and down-to-earth reason. There’s too much to do in this small office for me freeze everything, revisit my notes, condense a 90-minute conversation into the most important points, give the City Manager and Mayor a proper opportunity to respond, and still get a paper to press before the end of the week.
But at the same time, I wanted to let readers know that Larkey fulfilled the promise to speak out that he made last week following his Friday resignation.
That story made the online version of the North Cass Herald, but was too late for the print edition.
His promise to give his side stoked the fires of social media over the weekend with speculation and guesswork as to what would come out.
And what will come out is concerning, indeed – from a number of standpoints.
The obvious disclaimer I have to make is that, like a great many Beltonites, I’ve known the Larkey family for decades. Nearly as long as I’ve known former City Clerk Patti Ledford and her family.
My profession commits me to fairness in covering the events of our city, but it doesn’t mean I have to ignore questionable decision-making just because I have long-time acquaintances involved. Leave the recusals to the lawyers. My challenge is to be fair no matter what, and I will be.
Not everything we discussed will come out, and that’s understood. Not everything that will come out can be properly defended by city leaders. Again, lawyers. They may want to desperately, but they’ll be gagged. That, too, will need to be understood.
But there are a significant number of areas of concern regarding and related to City Hall’s treatment of Larkey that require explanation. If those explanations are provided, readers can decide. If they’re not, readers can use that information as well. There have been a string of unfortunate occurrences at City Hall over the past month.
Whether the trash debacle, the storm siren malfunction and the Larkey issue all happening at practically the same time were the result of disastrous luck or are overdue symptoms of deep-seated problems at City Hall will be a call for citizens to make.
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Speaking of the storm siren malfunction, Police Chief James Person, who by default is now the city’s Emergency Management Director, will present a proposal by Blue Valley Public Safety to do a complete inspection of the city’s siren system, locate a radio activated light in the Communications Center and perform routine maintenance on a regular basis.
Basically, it sounds like a service agreement, and it’ll cost a total of $33,852. The City Council vote on first and second readings of the budget amendment on Tuesday night.
That’s shortly they retire to Executive (secret) Session to discuss negotiated contracts, legal actions and, yes, the sadly familiar “hiring, firing, disciplining or promotion of personnel.
One can only imagine . . .