McCOOK, Nebraska -- The McCook City Council will meet Monday evening, 7:30 p.m., at Memorial Auditorium, but only as a formality to reschedule the meeting for 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 8.
Mayor Dennis Berry will be unable to attend the Monday meeting and with Councilors Aaron Kircher and Shane Hilker abstaining from voting, the council will not have enough representation to take actions.
Kircher and Hilker were advised to abstain from voting by City Attorney Nate Schneider, while he researched whether law violations the two had been convicted of would require them to forfeit office.
Kircher was found guilty of disturbing the peace in November and Hilker pleaded no contest in May to a charge of harboring a potentially vicious dog.
During the meeting likely to be scheduled for Thursday, councilors will consider a recommendation from city staff to retain a Scottsbluff, Nebraska, law firm to provide an unbiased perspective into the definition of a crime, as referenced in the state statute. Howard Olsen of Simmons Olsen Law Firm has agreed to perform the service for his hourly rate of $125 per hour, with an agreement not to exceed $1,000.
City staff paid American Legal Publishing Corporation in April to update the McCook Code of Ordinance Book, with then-city manager Kurt Fritsch saying during an April City Council meeting that the revisions would bring the ordinance book up to state and federal requirements.
Schneider said during the announcement of his investigation into the councilors potentially being asked to forfeit their positions, that the state statute was contrary to McCook ordinance. He later explained to the Gazette that he was just commenting on how different the two were, adding that state law takes priority over city ordinances.
Schneider indicated during the meeting that he had contacted the state attorney general's office to obtain clarification, around what constitutes a crime, and just this week told the Gazette that the attorney general's office won't look into it as it doesn't relate to a state office.
A representative from the attorney general's office was unable to tell the Gazette Thursday, who was responsible for enforcing the state statute in question, and stated they would have to get back to us.
Nebraska statute 19-613 states that "Members of the council shall be residents and registered voters of the city and shall hold no other employment with the city. A council member who ceases to possess any of the qualifications required by this section or who has been convicted of a crime while in office shall forthwith forfeit such office."
McCook Code of Ordinance 30.001 states "Members of the City Council shall be residents and registered voters of the city and shall hold no other employment with the city. They shall be permitted to hold other elective office as provided by state law. Any Council member who ceases to possess any of the qualifications required by this section shall forthwith forfeit the office."