Tuesday morning, Tonganoxie Mayor Mike Vestal wrote an e-mail to the city council apologizing for having public works employees fix his van last week.
Tuesday evening, he again would have to explain why a public works employee was finishing the job during city work hours at the mayor’s home using city equipment.
Vestal claims he had no idea a city employee was in his driveway Tuesday working on the van. He thought the work would be done after hours.
“I can’t believe they did it,” Vestal said about the work done on his vehicle.
The problem with the mayor’s vehicle started when one of the hydraulic cylinders that lifts him into his van started leaking and he was told by the manufacturer it might be best to have it rebuilt locally.
For Vestal, a quadriplegic who has used a wheelchair for nearly 40 years, the van is his only transportation.
That’s when Vestal called Butch Rodgers, the city superintendent, and asked about local companies that could fix the cylinder. Vestal said Rodgers agreed to look at the van during his lunch break, and when he was having trouble with it, Rodgers took the van to the city shop.
“I was just desperate and when people are desperate they do things without thinking,” the mayor said.
The vehicle stayed in the shop overnight, and Friday morning Tonganoxie City Council member Paula Crook, acting on a tip, went to the shop, where she saw employees working on the van.
“We were entrusted by the citizens to do the right thing and you can’t take your personal vehicle down there and ask for the city crew to work on it,” Crook said. “And the city crew should have known it was a no-no.”
She called Mike Yanez, city administrator.
“It was an error in judgment and we took care of it immediately,” Yanez said. “There weren’t any repercussions other than just a counseling that we don’t work on personal equipment for any elected, appointed or hired city official.”
His meeting with the public works employees must not have sunk in because mid-afternoon Tuesday, a city employee driving a city vehicle left the mayor’s home after working on the van.
Vestal was remorseful the van was taken to the public works building, but he said he was unaware of the work being done on city time on Tuesday.
“I am not going to take the heat for this one this time,” he said. “I did not know they were out here.”
In September 2007, Vestal publicly apologized at a city council meeting after he had forwarded an e-mail containing a picture of a topless woman and a joke about Martin Luther King Jr. Day.