The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 6:35 pm

Clerk resigns; council ponders office's future

Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette

Standing at the podium facing the Fort Wayne City Council on Tuesday night, attorney Mark GiaQuinta read a statement from longtime City Clerk Sandy Kennedy. 

"I hope that I will be remembered as a loyal and conscientious public servant," GiaQuinta read. "I will miss the many friends that I have met and the citizens I have served."

Her resignation is effective immediately, GiaQuinta said, noting that the resignation was filed at 4:35 p.m. Tuesday. 

Kennedy’s resignation comes amid accusations that she had engaged in electioneering in her office at Citizens Square. The accusations, along with a video recorded and edited by former parking enforcement supervisor Colin Keeney, surfaced late last week.

In addition to Keeney, several clerk’s employees have spoken out, on condition of anonymity, stating that they felt intimidated if they did not contribute to Deputy Clerk Angie Davis’ election campaign.

Keeney resigned his position in September.

Kennedy first announced her intent to resign Monday afternoon through GiaQuinta, who is acting as her attorney. GiaQuinta said Kennedy, who had served 32 years as city clerk, resigned due to medical concerns. Kennedy announced this year that she would not seek another term as clerk.

"The past several years have been increasingly difficult for me. I was diagnosed with several physical conditions which have made it increasingly more difficult to work a full day, or even part of a day without pain and more recently without behavior I did not always understand," GiaQuinta said, reading from Kennedy’s statement.

"My condition has worsened within the past year. There is no shame in acknowledging that. My neurologist has advised me that I am beginning a new phase in my life’s journey, which should not include an attempt to serve out my term as your city clerk."

After Tuesday’s meeting, several City Council members expressed sadness over Kennedy’s departure, some calling her a dear friend. 

"I want to say to Sandy, because I know you’re watching, you are in our prayers for your health and we know you’ve been struggling for a while with health issues," said Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th. "And now it has brought you to resign. ... You provided 32 years of loyal and consistent public servitude to the city, and you will be missed."

Councilmen Geoff Paddock, D-5th, Marty Bender, R-at large, and John Crawford, R-at large, also made similar statements. Bender described Kennedy as a "dear friend for 35 years."

"This is a somber day for me personally and for all those associated with city government," Paddock said. "Mr. GiaQuinta’s reading of the statement of City Clerk Sandy Kennedy ending her career after 35 years of service in city government and 32 years of that in the city clerk’s office, is a record of accomplishments."

Paddock described Kennedy’s service as exceptional.

Though Kennedy officially resigned her post Tuesday night, the controversy surrounding city clerk’s office is far from over. At the end of the council’s scheduled budget hearings, Crawford requested the body review the clerk’s budget at the next scheduled meeting. He specifically requested Davis appear before the council to present the budget and answer questions related to the conduct shown in the video.

Crawford said there are several line items within the city clerk’s budget that require further scrutiny, but he declined to comment on what they are. He also urged the rest of the City Council to let him know their thoughts on how to proceed.

"Any such activities that have been or have not been occurring in that department are quite germane to our budget discussion," Crawford said. "In other words, this could affect council’s recommendation on the staffing in that department or how it proceeds on in subsequent years."

Crawford said that if adequate answers are not provided, the matter could be referred to the city’s ethics board for further review. 

As the council prepares to scrutinize the city clerk’s budget and the controversy surrounding the office, Paddock said he hopes the hearing will be conducted fairly and in a bipartisan way. 

Davis was not present for Tuesday’s meeting. Instead, the clerk’s duties were performed by Assistant Deputy City Clerk Sarah Rogers. Crawford said he was told that Davis had a conflicting engagement Tuesday night and was not sure if Rogers would be filling in as clerk for future City Council meetings.

Davis did not return a voice mail message seeking comment late Tuesday. 

After the meeting, Republican mayoral candidate Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, said that the activity purportedly shown in Keeney’s video is egregious. 

"Setting a high ethical standard is important," Harper said. "What seemed to occur, which was asking that political activity be asked of public employees, is not correct."

Additionally, Harper said if elected he would support expanding the city’s ethics policy and would support adding an ethics ordinance to the city code. The city’s ethics policy is not currently part of the city code and does not cover any elected official except the mayor. 

The City Council will discuss the clerk’s budget, among other department budgets, at its Oct. 20 meeting. 

dgong@jg.net

 

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