Waterloo Council debate over mechanic rolls into week 3 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo Council debate over mechanic rolls into week 3

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The heated fight over a city mechanic position has rolled into week three for the Waterloo City Council. 

KWWL continues to follow the debate, which has left one man unemployed.

What should have been a simple new hire approval at the council meeting on February 5 instead turned into a heated debate, when newly-elected council member Margaret Klein questioned the addition of a full-time city mechanic position which had already been approved in this year's budget.

"I have no problem with the process. I just have a problem with having it suggested that this is inevitable and that I have to vote one way," said Klein at the February 5th meeting. "Here is another thing I have a problem with, the money that we had last year, we may not have this coming year. We have to be responsible."

Despite pushback from other council members, ultimately the approval of the new employee was voted down by Klein, Chris Shimp, Steve Schmitt and Bruce Jacobs.

 This week, the council was hit with backlash not only for denying a man his already-promised job, but for the way the council has conducted itself. 

 An exchange between veteran council members Pat Morrissey and Steve Schmitt ignited this response from Mayor Hart during last week's meeting:

Morrissey: "You told me what?"
Schmitt: "I didn't tell you anything."
Morrissey: "You just told me to be quiet."

"Listen, as presider, let's stop this. This is embarrassing. This is embarrassing. We are arguing over people who want to serve," yelled Mayor Hart during the February 12th meeting. "People have given their opinions, council has given their opinions. Let's move on and respect Waterloo, and respect these people and the citizens looking."

A week later, several members of the community voicing their disgust.

"We have watched for years, the way this council plays tricks and plays games," said one woman who addressed the crowd.

"Yet I listened to two citizens that were trying to serve this city be berated, be slandered and that is not leadership," said a city mechanic, who spoke last week in support of John Oehlerich.

Oehlerich who was set to start at the Central Garage before Klein and the three others voted it down.

Others speaking again in support of Oehlerich, who was in the audience and spoke during last week's meeting.

Councilman Morrissey, following two attempts last week to reverse the decision, asked the mayor to call the initial vote out of order.

"This cut mentality is part of a political ideology and agenda of strong-arming us through deception, half-truths and misleading information towards an end that we as a community must resist and stop," said Morrissey.

Despite more than two hours of public comment on the decision over the past couple of weeks, largely in support of hiring Oehlerich, the four council members, Klein, Schmitt, Shimp, and Jacobs, remained silent.

Councilwoman Klein says her position remains the same.

"The budget is weak, it is under threat from the state with the backflow money. I just need to see where we are going to land so that, when we offer positions, we can maintain them through the years," said Klein.

After Morrissey's request to call the vote out of order with a long list of reasons why, Mayor Hart said he would look into the credibility of the vote with the city attorney.

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