GODDARD, Kan. (KSNW) — Hunter Larkin is the mayor of the City of Goddard again, and his first actions as mayor prompted a flurry of changes within the city council and government.
Larkin first became mayor in 2020. In May 2022, Larkin stated he was temporarily stepping down as mayor after an article by the Wichita Eagle, but he retained his council seat. Larkin had also been charged with DUI for a November 2021 traffic stop. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation.
Tuesday’s city council meeting included several on-agenda and off-agenda items that led to Larkin’s appointment and two new city council members.
When the meeting started, Larry Zimmerman was mayor. One agenda item was to fill a city council vacancy, left when Michael Proctor resigned on Dec. 31, 2022. Zimmerman initially nominated Jeffery Jones to fill the position. After a tied vote, Zimmerman then nominated Aubrey Collins, who was approved and immediately sworn in.
As Collins was taking his seat as a new council member, Larkin made a motion to amend the agenda and move into executive session to discuss the matters of unelected personnel.
After 25 minutes, the council returned, and Larkin made a motion to remove Zimmerman as the mayor, effective immediately, and have a new mayor election. The motion passed, with Vice Mayor Sarah Leland becoming mayor. Larkin then makes another motion to elect a new mayor and vice mayor.
“I do not feel that I have the capability to do these job duties of the mayor, especially the current situation we are dealing with, so I would like to nominate Hunter as I feel he can complete the steps that need taken,” Leland said in response.
The motion carries, making Larkin mayor, and Leland vice mayor.
Larkin’s first action as mayor was to call for an agenda item for the “removal of certain city staff” which prompted an immediate response from Zimmerman.
“Before you get to that point I’d like to tenure my resignation of city council effective immediately,” said Zimmerman, opening a new council seat.
The council then voted to nominate and approve Keaton Fish to fill Zimmerman’s now-vacated seat, and he was sworn in immediately.
With the new council member seated, Larkin motions to terminate the employment of City Administrator Brian Silcott, which passes unanimously. But a discussion follows, questioning the details of Silcott’s contract and what procedures are necessary to remove him.
Silcott reads the definition of termination for just cause: “The City may terminate the city administrator for just cause if the majority of the council votes to do so in an open meeting after a hearing which shall be held in an executive session, provided that the administrator shall be given a written notice setting forth any charges at least seven days prior to such hearing.”
After further debate, the council went into another executive session. When council members returned, Larkin stated, “So, now that we no longer have a city administrator, we’re going to skip over item I,” indicating there was no need for the city administrator’s report and moving on to the comments from the governing body.
“Heck of a first day, wow,” said Fish. “Well, thank you, guys, for sticking this out with us. I look forward to the future of Goddard and what this body’s going to do. I promise to always listen to you guys firstly, put the future of Goddard first, so thank you, guys.
“Um, yeah, wow. Lots of changes, but I think this is a good step forward. We’re gonna move in the right direction and do what’s best for this community and our city staff and businesses,” Leland said.
“Welcome, you guys both, to our city council. I appreciate you standing up in front of everybody. That took a lot of courage, so thank you. And thank you, everybody, for staying late,” said Brent Traylor.
“I ditto the same comments, city first,” Fisher said. “I know it’s been a tough day. I’m surprised. What’s going on? It’s a tough first day. A positive future ahead, you know, but it’s a city first.”
“Today was a tough day. I know. Wasn’t fun. I don’t think anybody here enjoyed it, but I want you all to know it was done out of love,” said Larkin. “And sometimes, when you love something so much, ya have to do the tough things to keep moving forward.”
Tuesday’s council decisions prompted criticism from Proctor, whose December resignation created the open seat that started the series of changes. Proctor said he is concerned by how Goddard’s governance was used.
“Its design is not that somebody can come in and totally restructure and command from the top down,” said Proctor. “The design of Goddard governance is to represent the Goddard population. It’s to run the city well and efficiently, and professionally. It’s, it’s not to do what has been done.”
Proctor said he is investigating the process for a recall election for Larkin.
“That’s what I’m interested in helping to get going. Obviously, I can’t vote on it myself. But I’m interested in seeing that process through,” Proctor said. “My understanding to this point, it’s 10% of the last election of registered voters signing – which for Goddard is only about 42 signatures.”
Larkin told KSN he’s not concerned with any challenges to remove him from office. In a press release on Thursday, Larkin also said, “The City Council also informed City Administrator Brian Silcott, of its intent to terminate his employment. The City will move quickly to commence a search for a new City Administrator to manage the City’s day-to-day affairs under the direction of the City Council.” He also thanked Zimmerman and Silcott for their many years of public service to Goddard.
You can watch Tuesday’s entire city council meeting here.