Letter To The Editor: Pete Allen

What Do Honesty, Integrity, and Trust Mean in Leadership?


Think of an ethical leader you know who exemplifies integrity, honesty, and trust. What specific behaviors cause you to experience this leader as upright, honest and trustworthy? Here are some examples of what I’ve heard.

  1. Honesty may be seen as transparency and openness- your willingness to communicate what you’re thinking or feeling, even when it is uncomfortable or unpopular. Honesty may be seen as a willingness to listen and discuss issues before the data is completely thought through, when available alternatives are not fully crystallized, and when decisions are not yet final. It may also be seen as keeping your word, following through on promises, and delivering on time.
  2. Integrity in leadership is often equated with courage- courage to speak up when your point of view is at odds with a manager’s perspective or with a commonly held belief about how things should be done. Integrity may also be interpreted as work ethic- in early, staying late to get the right things done for the city.
  3. Trust may be based on a feeling that you have the other person’s back when he or she is not in the room. It may be the confidence you will advocate the other person’s point of view with clarity and understanding. Or, trust may be gained as you’re seen to act in the best interest of the city, rather than acting primarily to advance your personal agenda.

Do What it Takes

While most everyone is adamant that ethical leadership ought to demonstrate integrity, honesty and trust, they do not define or understand those terms consistently. The differences in perception make it critical for you to find out more specifically what your managers, colleagues, direct reports, and other key stakeholders are looking for when it comes to leader integrity, honesty, and trust. It may not be enough for you to simply tell the truth when challenged or to turn in accurate expense reports. To be known for your integrity, honesty, and trust, you may need to demonstrate more personal courage; you may need to create an environment that is more open and transparent; or, you may need to build a stronger sense of teamwork and cooperation.

The critical next step is to ask around. When it comes to ethics like honesty, integrity, and trust, what do the people in Fort Scott expect from authentic leaders?


My introduction on how it works in Fort Scott

In 1971, I moved back to Fort Scott to enter contracting business with my brother. We started doing small jobs. Later, in that year. an urban renewal project was proposed, and we thought we could handle it. We picked up plans and over several days and nights, we came up with an estimate for it and we decided to bid it. There were now two bidders. On the morning of the bid opening, the other bidder called me and asked me to meet with him at a local restaurant. I agreed to the meeting. When we met his first question was “how much would it cost me for you to forget to sign your bid” and he went on to assure me he would sub the work out to us, with him being the prime contractor.  I turned down his offer and turned in our signed bid, which turned out to be the low bid and we were awarded the contract.

Since being elected commissioner, I have learned of many instances of seemingly unethical and dishonest behavior of the “staff” of the city.

  • I have been told of dishonesty in expense reports as observed by other staff members,
  • I have seen city projects with certain items missing, such as the sidewalk project going west from the Middle School missing $65,000 of protective guard railings, but presumably paid for,
  • I have observed a contracted mill and overlay project that was heavily loaded with milling costs and the project was completed without the milling,
  • I have seen sewer projects that were done by outside contractors that did not meet city standards and specifications, but were paid for by vote of the commission, based upon recommendations of approval by the then city attorney,
  • I have seen a 20-foot-deep sewer manhole dug out and replaced on a made-up “emergency” declaration without commission involvement. Said manhole was a drop for a single eight-inch sewer pipe that could have been extended about sixty feet and emptied into an existing manhole at a cost of one-tenth the cost of the new manhole.
  • I have seen a cash donation from pickleball players of $1,000 given to our then finance director with a promise of a receipt. That receipt never came.
  • I have seen our city streets and alleys torn up by hired crews installing sewer improvements and internet cables and junction boxes without any, or inadequate inspection from our staff, who by ordinance, were responsible to the citizens of our city.
  • I have observed city crews excavating for water and sewer lines without proper knowledge of prescribed methods and materials for repairing them,
  • I have seen at least two connecting link projects funded entirely by the taxpayers, when. with the proper procedures, funding would have been paid for by the state on a 90/10 basis. A third one was proposed last year but was stopped and a grant applied for to completely rebuild Wall Street with treated base, asphalt, curbs and gutters and new sidewalks. The grant was approved, and work will begin soon on the project.
  • I have been told by a local hardware dealer that provided city employees with unlimited purchases without verification by supervisors,
  • I know of a past situation where a privately-owned piece of equipment was overhauled at taxpayers’ expense.
  • I have seen the Bourbon Co. Attorney disbarred due to unethical behavior and fabricating false evidence.
  • I have seen the illegal transferring of funds from sewer revenue to the general funds with a ruling from city attorney that it was legal because “everybody does it” and he was told by an accountant that is was legal.
  • I have seen our economic development director issue checks with instructions to “keep it on the down low”.
  • There have been charges of “illegal wiretapping” by county IT and “illegal video surveillance.”
  • Suppression of the right to petition has been an issue.


All the above pales in comparison to the current issue with our involvement with ADM. When I became a commissioner, there was never any mention of our involvement with treating raw sewage and furnishing treated wastewater to the ADM plant, and the budgets did not mention a source of income for the sewage plant called ADM. It was late 2021 when a contract was expiring, that the issue was brought before the commission. That contract was to extend the current one, which I presume was signed in 2018.  At the regular commission meeting on 12/7/21, the commission was told by the utilities director only that we had a “wonderful situation’ with our contract with ADM and that we now had a spreadsheet that automatically calculated the billing for processing the raw sewage. (I might mention it was our engineering firm. Earls, who developed the spreadsheet to calculate the billing based upon the test results). However, it was September in 2022 before we began testing for BOD (which was the main billing factor for determining the pounds of solids over the prescribed limits of 1,500 ppm).

That misguided contract has, and still is, threatening our federal and state permit that allows the dumping of our treated wastewater into the Marmaton River. Staff was ignorant in the testing requirements of the permit, as well as for the treatment of the raw sewage being dumped directly into our lagoons. For instance, testing requirements for our federal permit specified testing for BOD be done and reported twice monthly, yet our contract with ADM specifies the testing be done “up to twice monthly or at least quarterly”.  It was well into the year 2022 (September) before the first test was done for BOD, and it was propagated by our then city manager who was shocked by the lack of testing being done. Said city manager then was promptly fired by the commission.

Sludge removal requirements were ignored, and sludge was allowed to build up in our lagoons. By July of 2022, sludge was measured at 77 inches with a design capacity of 24 inches. The microbes that were part of the sludge control system had been killed off by the excessive amounts of sludge being pumped directly into the lagoons with BOD of 10 times the allowable limits. The smell of sewage began drifting over our city as a result, and by the end of the year, we signed a 1.1 million dollar emergency contract with a sludge removal contractor to remove the excessive sludge. That sludge removal is still ongoing. Our “wonderful situation” with ADM has been a major embarrassment, as well as a costly one and the utilities director has been terminated.

What has this incompetence cost the city taxpayers? A breakdown of billings done since the spreadsheet and BOD testing has shown that average billing has gone from 55K per month to 514K, a difference of 459K per month. From January 2019 to September of 2022 is approximately 45 months. That amounts to a shortage of billing of approximately 20 million dollars. It was pointed out that the number of loads had increased two-fold in 2022, so even if that is so, one half of 20 million would be 10 million. And we will never know, due to inadequate testing, but 10 million would have replaced all the 20-year-old parts of our disposal plant and could have eliminated the remaining sanitary sewer overflows that occur with each rain event. Now it up to the citizens to pay the overhaul cost with exorbitant water and sewer charges and additional tax money.

We can trace the ADM fiasco to the then city manager and his inability to hire competent, trained staff to run this important function and protect the safety and wellbeing of the citizens.

How do we overcome the past? We start with the city manager and commissioners who would declare a new policy in FS. That policy would push to the forefront a declaration of honesty, trust and integrity be made a part of everyone working for the city, with training furnished. We would become more transparent, with more citizen’s involvement with real life town hall meetings and discuss the “new” push for serving the citizens with real projects, such as the Cooper Street project, the Special Street Improvement (Cape Seal) project that will improve the drivability of 80 more blocks of our streets this year, building on the 40 blocks we did last year, the upcoming Horton Street project and the rebuilding of Wall Street  coming up next year. We must utilize our public works director (Earls Engineering and Inspection) to set up comprehensive plans for water and sewer improvements and street improvements as recommended by the 2018 comprehensive plan. We must furnish the citizens with quality and timely projects that can be seen, with ribbon-cutting ceremonies and progress reports. As recommended in the above-mentioned comprehensive plan, we must become proactive in the pursuit of excellence for the citizens who furnish the funds to keep this city going and to improve the quality of life in fort Scott.  We want “real-life” reports on projects at each commission meeting….are we on schedule, are we within budget, what to expect from our crews over the next two weeks? Reports from each department head should become available at each meeting, or at least monthly. We must improve the meetings with topics the public wants to hear, not about what homeowners are doing or not doing with condemned properties. The sound quality of the meetings leaves a lot to be desired, especially to those of us with impaired hearing. I would recommend a new quality sound system with a notice before every meeting of the requirement to speak clearly into the mike. I make mention that most of the issues mentioned were under previous administrations. Current administrators have promised more accountability and transparency; we will see!


Former City Commissioner,

Harold (Pete) Allen

February, 28, 2023







3 thoughts on “Letter To The Editor: Pete Allen”

  1. Thank you for taking the time and effort to write this very important letter to our community.
    I sincerely hope that people with the character traits you pointed out that are absolutely essential to our communities survival, will be inspired by your call for help.

  2. Honesty is simple to define. Just think about putting something you do on the front page of the newspaper for your family, friends, and community to see.

    Thank you for your letter, Pete. This should be on the front page.

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