WATERLOO — A councilman’s ongoing battle to hire a previously rejected mechanic sent another Waterloo City Council meeting off the rails Monday.
Ward 3 Councilman Pat Morrissey has been raising weekly objections since the council voted 4-3 Feb. 5 to reject appointment of Jonathan Oehlerich to help service and repair the city’s vehicle fleet.
Oehlerich quit his previous job after being offered the city position, which was budgeted and approved by a previous council last August. Newly seated council members Margaret Klein and Chris Shimp joined holdover council members Steve Schmitt and Bruce Jacobs to reject the hire based on budget concerns.
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Morrissey, who was joined by Jerome Amos Jr. and Sharon Juon in supporting the hire, has rehashed the issue at every subsequent council meeting, prompting Klein to characterize the action as “harassment of a vote.”
Morrissey unsuccessfully called on his colleagues to reverse their decision and last week asked the mayor to rule the vote out of order.
This week, he called for vote to rescind the Feb. 5 action, only to see Klein, Shimp, Schmitt and Jacobs vote to table his request until the next fiscal year begins in July.
Shimp initially tried to prevent any debate on the matter, which led to a lengthy delay and discussions over whether the council was required to follow Robert’s Rules of Order for governing meetings.
Shimp said his vote on the mechanic’s position was “purely budgetary,” noting he was “elected on a platform to lower taxes.”
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“It would be fiscally irresponsible of me to hire a new $84,000 position before I even voted on my first budget,” he said. “After we pass a budget, I’m willing to revisit this issue.”
Shimp also called on Morrissey to respect his vote and stop “grandstanding and mudslinging.”
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Morrissey responded: “If following parliamentary rules and procedures is grandstanding, or if defending and standing up for one of our fellow residents of Waterloo and my belief ... that person has been harmed is grandstanding, then I guess I have been grandstanding.”
Meanwhile, City Attorney David Zellhoefer issued his opinion the Feb. 5 council vote to reject Oehlerich’s hire was legal.
“The state code gives them that right, and they exercised that right,” Zellhoefer said. “So as much as a lot of you might not like it, it’s legal.”
City Clerk Kelley Felchle said the council’s action rejecting Oehlerich disqualifies him from returning to the civil service list if the position is eventually filled.
Had the council rescinded the Feb. 5 vote, Felchle said, Oehlerich could have been placed back on the civil service list and could be selected as a candidate should the council choose to hire a mechanic in the future.