We’ve Got Your Back: Council’s approval not required for Topeka’s interim fire chief’s contract

Courtesy: City of Topeka/topeka.org

TOPEKA (KSNT) – The City of Topeka is repeating its previous official statements that Tim Wayne is the man for the interim fire chief job at TFD. In a release acknowledging “a lot of valid questions” since their first news release last Friday, the city is seeking to convince residents questioning his hire, that Wayne’s 26 years of experience and knowledge of medical response will lead the department to perform at a higher level.

City Manager Jim Colson‘s office is also defending the decision to hire Wayne without the approval, writing in a Wednesday news release that he did not have to consult the council. Colson claims that because the contract is with the City of Goodyear, Arizona, and not an individual, he did not violate Ordinance 2.25.090 requiring contract approval by the city council before signature by the city manager. According to the city manager’s office, Topeka’s legal department found that Wayne’s interim status on loan from another city is “not the equivalent of a permanent department head or regular employee of the City.”

The Topeka city ordinance reads that “all employment contracts with department heads or appointive officers or employees shall be approved by the city council…”. Colson’s office claims that the legal department also found that Wayne’s hire is “not the equivalent of a permanent department head” because he is being borrowed from another city. However, the official contract with the City of Goodyear reads that “The Loaned Employee will have direct reports consistent with the position of Fire Chief and will fulfill the requirements set forth in the Topeka Fire Chief job description.”

In the late afternoon news release, city manager Jim Colson’s office re-stated that they went outside of the City of Topeka to find someone who could “bring a fresh, objective perspective to help all of us grow.” Under the contract obtained by KSNT News under the Kansas Open Records Act, Colson is to work with Wayne to develop goals for his time at TFD. One of the objectives according to Wednesday’s news release is to help the department transition to Advanced Life Support and Community Medicine. The city’s news release notes that firefighters are often the first on the scene and are currently limited to offering basic life support initially until EMTs arrive on the scene.

tim-wayne

KSNT News has uncovered additional expenses related to Wayne’s hiring that were not included in the original news release from the city. KSNT News obtained a copy of the formal contract between the City of Topeka and the City of Goodyear, Arizona under a Kansas Open Records Act Request. As we’ve reported, the City of Topeka will pay nearly $79,000 in salary and benefits to borrow tim Wayne from Goodyear for a six month period. Topeka will also pay more than $2,500 total toward his replacement there.

However, we’ve now learned that Topeka will also pay up to $850 per month for Wayne’s housing in Topeka; a maximum cost of $5,100. Additionally, the contract agrees to provide a rental car or leased vehicle for work purposes. An amount is not specified, and it’s not clear it will be an existing TFD vehicle that’s provided.

Wayne himself comes with a lengthy resume, much of his 26 years of experience with the Glendale Fire Department. Wayne began as a firefighter with the U.S. Air Force before starting with the Glendale Fire Department, working his way up from firefighter/paramedic to deputy chief of the department before leaving last year to take the deputy fire chief position in Goodyear, Arizona.

You may recall many questions have been raised about Wayne’s hiring, from why Colson went outside of the department, the city, and even the state to hire an interim fire chief. Additionally, some eyebrows were raised at the fact that Colson and Wayne both previously worked for the same city: Glendale, Arizona—Wayne also worked for the city during the 8 years Colson did during his two stints with the municipality. Then, of course, there is the question the city addressed in their news release Wednesday, insisting that Colson did not have to consult the city council before signing the entitled “Contract for Professional Services” with the City of Goodyear dated February 19th.

KSNT News previously asked for an interview with City Manager Jim Colson regarding the hiring of the interim fire chief, however our request was denied by Media Relations Director Aly Van Dyke. All responses from Colson’s office have come from written news releases. So far, some members of the city council have been the only ones to address questions publicly—and with limited knowledge of the situation, saying they were not consulted or advised of Wayne’s hiring until a news release was sent out from Colson’s office late Friday afternoon.

As for Wayne, he starts his new position as interim fire chief of TFD next Tuesday, the same day that the Topeka City Council will meet that night. Councilwoman Sandra Clear has made it clear, that if the hiring process for the interim fire chief is not on the agenda; she will ask anyway she told KSNT News in a recent interview. The agenda will likely be released over the coming weekend.

While some council members have expressed concern and frustration over the hiring process, Councilman Brendan Jensen publicly voiced his approval of Wayne’s selection. In an interview with KSNT News, Jensen said Topeka residents need to embrace this change and see it as an opportunity for the Topeka Fire Department to grow.

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