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Columbia city manager questioned over handling of employee speech at city council

Questions about city manager's discipline
glascock 7-22
Columbia city manager John Glascock


An attorney for a Columbia city employee is questioning the city manager's decision to put him on leave for attending a city council meeting and cut positions from a department.

Attorney Andy Hirth sent a letter Wednesday to city manager John Glascock pushing back on Glascock's decision to put city budget officer Kyle Rieman on paid leave. Glascock did not specify why he was put on leave in a July 9 memo to Rieman, but Hirth's letter said Glascock told Rieman it was "insubordination."

Hirth's letter said the issue stemmed from a June 21 presentation given by IT department employee Ryan Jarrett to the city council. Jarrett spoke to the council about ordinance 19-84, which gives promoted employees a 10% raise or the minimum salary for their new position, whichever is greater. Glascock was not in attendance during this meeting, but Rieman went to support Jarrett, according to Hirth.

"It appeared to us he was retaliating against city employees for attending a city council meeting in the city in which they live," Hirth said.

In an email obtained by ABC 17 News through a records request, Glascock wrote to IT director Jim Chapdelaine and finance director Matthew Lue on July 7 about the speech. He said city staff orchestrated the presentation in an effort to get the ordinance reversed while Glascock was out of town.

"I can not approve of these types of actions by staff let alone a director position," Glascock wrote. "Therefore, all FY22 NDI positions for I.T. have been unapproved and will be removed from budget consideration."

Glascock declined to comment, calling the issue a personnel matter.

Hirth said Glascock's actions could run afoul of both the First Amendment and Missouri state law. Public employers are barred from disciplining employees who speak out about several topics, including mismanagement or law-breaking within their departments. Hirth questioned why Rieman, who did not speak, was punished.

"That a Columbia resident who happens to also be an employee of the City should desire to attend a public meeting of his government is neither surprising nor improper," Hirth wrote. "Mr. Rieman had every right to be there and, though he chose not to exercise it on June 21, he also had the right to speak in his capacity as a private citizen without prior approval or fear of reprisal."

Hirth said Rieman shared the concern Jarrett had about the city ordinance, but did not believe there was a group of city employees dedicated to getting it rescinded while Glascock was gone. Glascock's email to Chadelaine and Lue did not provide any evidence as to why he felt workers had orchestrated the speech.

Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors the 5 p.m. show for ABC 17 News and reports on the latest news around mid-Missouri at 9 and 10 p.m.


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