Osage City Council action violates KOMA

View the letter to the Osage City Council and settlement from the county attorney here.

OSAGE CITY—The Osage County Attorney has issued a settlement finding actions taken by the Osage City Council at its Aug. 13 meeting were in violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act, K.S.A. 75-4317.

At the meeting, the council voted 5-2 to conduct the ballot in private, with council members Edward Mueller and Becky Brewer voting in favor of conducting the vote openly; council members Duane Peroo, Edward Berends, Rob Rowe, Linda Carson and Leroy Stromgren voted to hold the ballot secretly.

“I'd like to request we vote publicly,” Brewer said.

“Say the person I voted for didn't get it,” Stromgren said. “Then there would be hostility there.”

“I would disagree,” Brewer said. “I think your constituents have a right to know how we voted.”

The council preceded with the paper ballot, which Osage City Mayor Quintin Robert read aloud, tally votes 5-2 in favor of electing Bruce Schoepflin to fill the vacant position.

Following the meeting, letters of complaint were filed to the Osage County Attorney’s Office by Kansas Assistant Attorney General Lisa A. Mendoza and The Osage County Herald-Chronicle noting the alleged incident.

County attorney Brandon Jones followed up on the letter, investigated and confirmed the violation.

“I believe that the appropriate penalty for this violation of KOMA is to ask that the council void the election of the new member, which was taken by secret ballot, and void any other action taken by the council and voted on by the new member which was elected by secret ballot, pursuant to K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 75-4320(a),” Jones said in a letter addressed to Robert, Osage City Attorney Rick Godderz and Osage City Manager Linda Jones.

On Friday, Jones issued a settlement between the council, its members and his office, noting the incident and arranging its mitigation without prosecution. The council may choose to remedy the situation by agreeing:

• to obtain training on the provisions of KOMA within 90 days of the agreement and provide written confirmation. Any fees would be required to be paid by individual council members and not public funds.

• to engage in no future violations of KOMA;

• that should any future breach of KOMA be committed, the issued agreement would become void, and prosecution may be instituted based on above facts and admissions;

• that the agreement does not apply to any future or currently unknown conduct that may occur.

Should the council accept the agreement, all further action from the Aug. 13 meeting would be voided.

Prior to the vote, the council heard short presentations from Schoepflin, a current member of the planning and zoning committee, and Denise Lauber, who ran and tied for the open position in April, but lost by a coin toss. Several members of the public also presented comments on the open position.

In conjunction with the settlement offered by Jones, the council will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday) to repeat actions taken at the Aug. 13 meeting. Voided actions included:

• a budget meeting with no public comment, and held a vote to approve the 2014 budget during the regular meeting.

• an update on the USD 420 facilities project, including a redesign of plans for the community center.

• a 10-minute executive session to discuss attorney-client matters. Upon returning to executive session, the council voted to accept a bid from Killough for $132,633.20 to complete the bid and alternate on Nichols Road.

• presentation from Corey Linton, of parks and recreation, and Jim Lohmyer, Osage City Chamber, with budget estimates and details for Tailgate Showdown planned for Oct. 5 at Jones Park. The event would be a smaller cooking competition with around 24 teams paired with a craft beer tasting event hosted by the chamber.

• a vote to approve proclamation of recommitment to the American Disabilities Act. Adam Burnett, director of core services at Resource Center for Independent Living, thanked the council for its continued support.

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The Osage County Herald-Chronicle

The official newspaper of Osage County; the cities of Burlingame, Carbondale, Lyndon, Melvern, Olivet, Osage City, Overbrook, Quenemo and Scranton; Burlingame USD 454, Lyndon USD 421, Marais des Cygnes Valley USD 456, Osage City USD 420 and Santa Fe Trail USD 434.

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