City Council appoints new member amid hiring flap
A former councilman resigned the post after being named city administrator but was later fired
May 29, 2014
City leaders used a blind questionnaire Wednesday to appoint a new city councilman to replace one who resigned last month when he was hired as the city administrator but was fired a week later amid residents' complaints.
Lake City Mayor Gary Fahan said the council chose the appointment-by-questionnaire - in which three council candidates answered questions that were read aloud at a council meeting that night without revealing their identities - to stem possible complaints of favoritism that plagued its most recent choice for the new city administrator.
"Most of them knew who they wanted," Fahan said of the council's predisposition to one candidate.
Ultimately, the four council members chose candidate "A" - resident Chris Blair.
He replaces Matt Ringgenberg, 35, who for a week was city administrator - the top boss among city employees - before the council voted to fire him on April 28 due to the outcries of residents.
"I think you people made a mockery of this town the way this transpired," resident Bill Hungate said at that April meeting.
But Hungate and several other residents who attended that meeting declined to reveal their specific gripes to the Daily Times Herald about Ringgenberg. Fahan said the council voted to fire Ringgenberg to spare the town from infighting about the appointment.
"We have nothing to substantiate any claim against him," Fahan said at the time but declined to reveal the complaints.
The city has struggled for months to replace former City Administrator Kim Kelly, who left the post in late February to become budget analyst at the North Central Iowa Correctional Facility in Rockwell City.
Since then, the council has rejected one job applicant recommended by a council-appointed committee, hired another who quit shortly after he started and hired and fired Ringgenberg, a two-term councilman who had no previous experience as a city administrator.
The administrators often play a large role in small-town municipal governments. They prepare annual budgets, compile and distribute city council meeting agendas and minutes, and are a liaison between the city and its existing and potential residents and businesses.
The council winnowed on Wednesday the list of city administrator candidates to three but declined to reveal who they are. Council members tentatively plan to interview the candidates on Monday.
The three candidates they considered Wednesday to replace Ringgenberg on the council included Blair, resident Nick Gorden and Ken Hein, a former town mayor.
Iowa law gives broad discretion to city councils on how they appoint a new member. Some in recent years have drawn names randomly from a hat.
Lake City residents did not petition for a special election to replace Ringgenberg, which is allowed by state law.
Blair's position will be up for election in November 2015.
Chris Blair is a brother of Councilman B.J. Blair, who took office for a four-year term in January. Chris, 35, is manager of NEW Co-op in Lohrville, and B.J., 33, is a co-owner of Blair's Artistic Touches and Design in Lake City.
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