Bill Kroll thought that as Shawnee County facilities management director, he could be fired only through a public vote of the Shawnee County Commission.
But Commissioners Kevin Cook, Bill Riphahn and Aaron Mays didn’t get involved in March as human resources director Angela Lewis gave Kroll a letter indicating he’d been fired by Betty Greiner, the county’s director of administrative services.
Greiner gained the authority she exercised to terminate Kroll from a resolution the commission approved in December 2014, four months before Kroll was hired, county counselor Jim Crowl said Thursday.
Kroll said this week that the county lacked transparency in the way it handled his termination and questioned why he was fired after receiving evaluations that all indicated he exceeded performance standards during his six years on the job.
Crowl responded that the process the county followed in terminating Kroll was consistent with the rules it has in place.
Kroll knew he could be fired
Rarely has Shawnee County fired any of its department heads outright, as those whose jobs are in serious jeopardy have tended to resign rather than be terminated.
In an interview Tuesday with The Capital-Journal, Kroll didn’t challenge the county government’s right to fire him.
Kroll said he knew that a person in the job he held could be terminated, even if that were simply because commissioners “didn’t like the way I part my hair.”
But any decision to do that would have needed to be made by the commission, he said.
The county’s facilities management director reports to the commission, according to the first sentence of the county’s job description for that position, Kroll said.
He added that the commission voted to hire him, so commission action should be necessary to fire him. Crowl disagrees.
Attorney: Greiner had right to fire Kroll
He noted that Cook and former Commissioners Shelly Buhler and Bob Archer voted Dec. 8, 2014, to promote Greiner to administrative services director and place the jobs of the facilities management director, county counselor, audit finance director, human resources director and information technology director under her supervision.
That vote did away with the prior arrangement in which the people in those positions served at the pleasure of the commission. That body then voted in August 2015 to arrange for the county counselor to once again report to the commission.
Crowl’s explanation as to why Greiner had the authority to fire Kroll is a “cop-out,” Kroll said.
“The buck passing from (commissioners) to Ms. Greiner to be executed by Ms. Lewis certainly leads to questions of both transparency and responsibility,” he said.
Kroll said Jonathan Thummel, the county’s human resources director when he was hired in March 2015, told Kroll the placement of smaller departments under Greiner was “far more for the purpose of accounting issues than actual supervision.”
Thummel resigned from county employment the following month.
Kroll was facilities manager for Topeka’s city government before being hired by Cook, Archer and Buhler as the county’s facilities management director.
The person in that position supervises five employees, each of whom has more job security than their boss because their positions are classified.
Kroll said he was surprised to learn in March that he was being forced out of his job.
Lewis initially placed Kroll on paid administrative leave and offered him early retirement but he chose not to accept it.
“I don’t believe I’ve done anything wrong,” he said. “I sleep well at night knowing that I did a good job for Shawnee County.”
Kroll said Lewis suggested he retire to avoid having a termination on his record but he replied: “I’m 63 years old. Do you think I’m building my resume at this point in my life? I’m here to do a job for the taxpayers of Shawnee County.”
Kroll says he received only positive performance reviews
Kroll said the termination letter he received quoted Greiner as having said his performance was “unsatisfactory,” which is not consistent with the reviews he received from her.
He provided The Capital-Journal copies of evaluations he received each year from 2017 through 2020.
“Bill continues to do a great job in maintaining the county’s buildings,” the May 2020 evaluation said. “The county facilities are in the best maintained shape that they have been since I started at the county.”
Kroll was given numerical scores on a scale of 1 to 5 on each of 11 different performance factors in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
He exceeded expectations each year, with his average scores being 4.5 in May 2018. 3.8 in May 2019 and 3.9 in May 2020.
No numerical scores were given in his review for May 2017. Kroll said the county didn’t evaluate him for the employment year that ended in May 2016.
Shawnee County officials won’t comment publicly about the reasons behind Kroll’s termination because those are a personnel matter, Crowl said.
Information public agencies may keep confidential include “personnel records, performance ratings or individually identifiable records pertaining to employees,” according to the Kansas Open Records Act. Such agencies may not keep secret the names, positions, salaries, compensation, length of service and employment-related contracts of such employees.
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