WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
“Every action of local government must be consistent with the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, the Constitution of the State of Kansas, State statutes (unless the city has enacted a valid charter Ordinance), and local ordinances. It is extremely important for a city to follow its own ordinances.” This is a quote from the Governing Body Handbook, a reference for elected municipal officials from the League of Kansas Municipalities.
- I don’t claim to be an expert in law. When I read an Ordinance or a State Statute I take the verbiage literally. What took place during the past two City Commissioners Meetings on Wednesday, June 1st, and on Tuesday June 7th, raised a lot of Red Flags in the disregard of State Statutes regarding the hierarchy of the Mayor/President position when a position is vacated on the commission, and the disregard of our City Ordinance 3290 which addresses how to Fill a Vacancy. And last of all, the legal requirements of those persons who sent letters of interest or who are nominated for the vacated commissioner position.
When someone resigns as a Mayor or commissioner,the statutes are specific to your class of city and form of government. We are a Class One City and when the Mayor steps down per state statute 121-10a04 as explained in the Governing Body Handbook the President of the commission becomes the Mayor and remains in this position until the next city general election. The commission elects a new president. The final step in the process is the Commission must nominate and vote on a qualified elector to the vacant position. These actions are to be taken within 10 days. These steps also follow the Kansas State Statute 13-513.
When Filling a vacant Position on the Fort Scott City Commission: On
June 21st 2005 a City Ordinance 3290 was written on how to fill a commissioner vacancy and was passed by our city commissioners as follows:
SECTION 1. Vacancy in Office – How Filled.
”In case of any vacancy in the office of Mayor or commissioner, the remaining members of the Board of Commissioners shall, within ten days or the next regularly scheduled city commission meeting, after the occurrence of a vacancy, elect some suitable person, by majority vote, who shall reside inside the territorial limits of the City of Fort Scott, Kansas and shall be a qualified elector therein to fill the vacancy for the balance of the the unexpired term of such office. If the remaining members cannot agree upon a suitable person, then they shall call upon the City Attorney who shall cast the decisive vote for such appointment.
If the mayor or a city commissioner shall move outside the territorial limits of the City of Fort Scott, Kansas such move shall ipso facto be deemed to create a vacancy in such person’s office.
SECTION 2. This ordinance shall be effective after its passage and publication in the official City Newspaper.
State Statute 14-1305 Supports the above Ordinance 3290 and the verbiage is almost identical.
We have had five Commissioners resign and we have approached the “Filling of the Vacancy” five different ways, disregarding the above Ordinance and its
- Where in this Ordinance does it state that Letters of Interest shall be requested?
- Where in this Ordinance does it state that the Letters of Interest will be reviewed by the sitting City Commissioners and then voted on in a public meeting?
- Where in this Ordinance does it state that those who sent a Letter of Interest will be interviewed and asked the same questions in a public meeting and then voted on in a public meeting by the commissioners.
- And who is responsible for reviewing the Letters of interest to confirm that they meet the qualifications for holding an office?
This brings me to the next concern regarding qualifications for holding an office.
There is “Minimum Legal Requirement for Holding an Office” per the Governing Handbook which includes the basic duties of municipal office, the state law sets forth the following minimum requirements that each elected official is required to observe:
- An individual must be 18 years of age who is a citizen of the United States, a permanent resident of this state, and a “qualified elector.” This means the person must be a registered voter in the city when filing for office. To hold office, the individual must be a “qualified elector” at all times. See Kansas State Statute 14-109 and 15-209.
- State law requires elected officials to maintain residency within the city limits at all times during the elective term.
In reviewing the minimum legal requirements for holding an office, it appears that we may have candidates that did not meet one of the qualifications when submitting their letters of interest. Did all of the candidates meet the qualifications of a “qualified elector” or proof of residency within the city limits when their letter of interest was submitted?
Here is my question to you as the elected officials of this city:
- Why do we not follow our City Ordinance 3290 as written for filling a vacancy? The verbiage is basically the same as the state statute.
- Your lack of regard for our City Ordinance was ignored five times and the process of filling the five vacancies was done five different ways.
- How can we rectify the above questionable illegal actions taken by you as members of our City Council involving the filling of a mayor/commissioner vacancy, ignoring the state statutes regarding the hierarchy of the commissioner when a position is vacated and then filling a vacated position with a candidate that was not qualified to even submit a letter of interest, let alone be placed into the commission vacancy.
- Consistency with Administrative Regulations have the force and effect of law and must be observed.
- The most important question I have is where is the legal oversight of our City Attorney in making sure that every action of the local government must be consistent with the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, the Constitution of the State of Kansas, State statutes (unless the city has enacted a valid charter Ordinance), and local ordinances.
- What actions are going to be taken to rectify this fiasco?
I have documentation to support my concerns.