A divided city council on Tuesday approved the hiring of an outside law firm for an ethics probe into the mayor and a council member along with other matters.
Both Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and council member Jan Quillman were barred from participating in the debate because they are the subjects of the ethics complaint.
Law firm Ancel Glink will look into other conflicts between city hall and the police department, although those matters have not been specified.
“I don’t expect the Mueller report here,” said interim City Manager Steve Jones, who initiated the hiring of Ancel Glink.
Although barred from the discussion and vote, both O’Dekirk and Quillman got in comments.
O’Dekirk later in the meeting accused Jones of throwing the city’s legal staff “under the bus” by questioning their capacity to objectively do the investigation.
“That’s questioning their integrity. That’s a shot below the belt,” O’Dekirk said.
Jones made the comment while being questioned by Councilman Larry Hug as to why an outside law firm was being hired.
“It became very clear that many elected officials feel that there is not sufficient independence and objectivity in our legal department,” Jones said. “Staff feels that, and I feel that.”
The city legal staff includes Inspector General Chris Regis who reports only to the mayor and has been directed by O’Dekirk to do his own investigation into the police department.
Quillman made comments before stepping away from the council dais as discussion began and said she will hire her own lawyer to “defend my reputation.”
Ancel Glink has been retained to look into ethics complaints filed by police Sgt. Lindsey Heavener, whom the mayor accused of being drunk while on duty at a downtown street festival in September.
Heavener took blood and urine tests the night of the festival to demonstrate his sobriety.
Ancel Glink also will investigate other matters of conflict between city hall and the police department in the last year, although Jones has not publicly said what those are.
The 5-2 vote to hire Ancel Glink mirrored previous divided votes concerning the hiring of a new city manager.
Voting to hire the firm were Pat Mudron, Michael Turk, Bettye Gavin, Sherri Reardon and Don Dickinson. Voting no were Larry Hug and Terry Morris.
Mudron said it would “not be fair” for the city legal staff to do the investigation “with the outcome being challenged by the party that felt they were wronged.”