Mayor apologizes to city staff over comments

12/17/2013 5:10 PM

12/17/2013 6:09 PM

Mayor Carl Brewer opened Tuesday’s City Council meeting by extending an olive branch to city staffers over his comments in a Dec. 8 Eagle article about four high-profile missteps this year by Wichita employees.

Brewer said Tuesday he’s only mildly sorry for commenting publicly about avoiding publicity-laden mistakes in the future. He said he’s really sorry, however, that city employees took the comments as a general indictment of all staffers.

“I decided to do this because the prevailing opinion was I was saying this about all city employees,” Brewer said after the council meeting.

“Plus, I wanted to make sure they understand that when the council has a retreat, we have general conversations – fairly frank conversations – to get issues out there. Normally, I suppose those comments should have been guarded, but we went through most of the day and they weren’t guarded at all. This was a frank conversation.”

The Dec. 8 story featured Brewer and other council members stating concerns about four specific issues: the surprise unveiling of the city’s water crisis and a proposal for fines of up to $1,000 to force temporary conservation; the belated vetting of backers of a proposal to drill for oil under Century II; the belated process to seek proposals to develop riverfront land downtown; and the news that the city doesn’t track the amount of taxes it abates for businesses.

It also featured acknowledgements from council members that “99 percent of the time staff is on point,” as council member Lavonta Williams put it, in a high-volume issues-oriented environment.

“Still, there’s that 1 percent,” Williams said.

Brewer released a formal statement Tuesday afternoon to city employees to follow up on his council meeting remarks.

“I think everyone agrees that we can be better,” the mayor said. “But this issue doesn’t include everyone. It never did, and I certainly apologize to anyone who takes it that way. I am not above turning around and telling people that I apologize for what I said, even though I’m going to continue to make my points and express my concerns.”

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