Lehigh clerk still at work

LEHIGH – City Clerk Wanda Ganeff has gone back to work and, in spite of earlier reports, one council member said that she had never been suspended.

Lehigh Mayor Mark Johnson said on Monday that Ganeff had been suspended, but that he had no further information as he needed to consult with the city attorney.

On Tuesday, council member Troy Twito said Ganeff was sent home for the day, with pay, following a disagreement Monday morning.

Ganeff said she had no comment. Attempts to reach the other council members were unsuccessful Tuesday evening.

“Wanda never was suspended. There was a disagreement between two or three council members,” Twito said. “We used the past council’s – which was at the time Doug Dellachiesa was mayor – his way of handling it. We just sent her home for the day with pay, until we got to the bottom of what we wanted to find out.”

Johnson said everything had been “resolved in-house.”

“She’s back to work and we’re moving forward,” he said.

The issue was caused, Johnson said, by “misinformation we received from not the proper people as they were checking into some stuff, is all I will say. We took care of it in-house. We’re back floating down the river.”

Twito said the intent was to “diffuse the situation” and prevent an argument from happening at the City Clerk’s office.

Twito said some council members questioned if Ganeff was following policies in the proper way. Research into city records later showed that Ganeff was correct, he said. He declined to specify what policy was in question.

The policy was put in place 20 years ago, and never changed, even though in some other towns it has been changed, he said.

“It’s a policy the mayor put in place, it was what the previous clerk told her we did,” Twito said. “To make an amendment to that, we’ll have to do that in an open meeting, and until that’s brought out I’m not going to comment what that is.

“It’s nothing major, it’s nothing big, nobody is going to get fired, nobody’s going to get terminated.”

Twito said he is serving his first term on the council, as are Dwight Tuel and Kay Timmons. Margaret Orr has served for about 2 1/2 years; only Doug Dellachiesa has been on the council longer.

Ganeff’s husband Jim Ganeff said the new council considered firing Wanda Ganeff shortly after it took office in January.

“She’s certified. She’s been in there seven years,” Jim Ganeff said. “That’s politics at the utmost when you have three new council members, and their first order of business in January is to put a closed door meeting on your clerk.”

Jim Ganeff said there are very few protections for city employees in small towns.

“We as small towns need to come together,” he said. “We don’t need to be divisive.”

Twito said he thought any issues could be worked out.

“We’re a new council, we’re trying to do it right. I told (Ganeff) if you do something illegal I’ll be first to call the county attorney, and I hope you do the same for me,” Twito said. “You’re going to make mistakes, you’re human; I’m going to make mistakes, I’m human. As long as it’s not illegal or immoral, I don’t think we have anything to worry about. We can work through most issues.”

According to Iowa code, open meetings of a city council must be posted at least 24 hours in advance. Twito said no meeting had taken place Monday.

“There were no meetings yesterday. We just felt it was what we needed to do. It was only two of us who did it,” he said. “She was sent home yesterday morning. She was brought back this morning. Me and the mayor and a couple other people – not in a meeting because we can’t do that – but I took one of the other council members over to the mayor’s house, and we talked to the mayor.”

“Meeting,” according to code, means “a gathering in person or by electronic means, formal or informal, of a majority of the members of a governmental body where there is deliberation or action upon any matter within the scope of the governmental body’s policy-making duties.”