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Situation in Crofton could be as gray as winter skies

January 15, 2019 GMT

CROFTON — As of Monday morning, it wasn’t just the federal government that was dealing with a partial shutdown.

The continuing dispute in Crofton over whether newly elected Sharol Lawhead and two members of the Crofton City Council have the authority to transact business is at the center of the controversy.

City Administrator Charlie Hendrix issued a statement to the press indicating that city services would be limited.

“Due to our limited hours of operation, the county clerk will also take fees for those filing to run for election. We will be open Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon this week to take filing monies,” Hendrix said.

Arlene Steffen and Don Meink have paid fees so far to run, she said.

Without a quorum, there’s some question over whether the city has the authority to pay bills.

The Nebraska State Patrol and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office have agreed to assist the local police department with any law enforcement needs during this time of lack of quorum.

“We are extremely grateful for their assistance,” Hendrix said.

The Crofton City Council apparently will meet again Monday evening, after it appears there was some question of whether the agenda was properly advertised before Wednesday’s meeting of two council members and the mayor.

Some elected officials in Crofton dispute whether there is not a quorum now, including Lawhead — the newly elected mayor who had been a member of the council.

Along with Lawhead becoming mayor, another member of the council resigned in December, leaving the city with two members before the new mayor could appoint someone to fill her vacancy.

Lawhead said Monday morning that she has reservations about Hendrix’s interpretation of the legality of quorum in the city’s situation.

“In the previous two years I have served as a councilwoman, on more than one occasion, Hendrix has called the city mayor and asked him and two more councilmen to come to the city office and approve the payment of bill which she alleged came late (after a meeting),” Lawhead said. “The one I specifically remember was for a payment for a street bond she said slipped by her. So, the mayor, myself and one other councilman convened a meeting in the city office and voted to approve the payment. And there are minutes.”

Wendell Strom had served as mayor for 12 years before deciding not to run again.

Since business has been conducted this way in the past, Lawhead said she doesn’t see a problem continuing to conduct city business with two councilmen and a mayor.

As far back as November, Hendrix has attempted to have the council agree to allowing her to pay bills in the future without convening a meeting because she had intentions of closing the city down, Lawhead said. Once the city completed an election to fill the empty council seats, it could go back to business as usual, she said.

As the new mayor, Lawhead is relying on advice from the law firms of Baird Holm of Omaha and Copple, Rockey, McKeever & Schlecht of Norfolk, which are in agreement on state statute 17-105, which cites a quorum consists of two elected officials who are able to conduct business.