Johnson County Commissioners again reject contract for manager

OLATHE, Kan. -- About 20 people, many of them Johnson County employees, told county commissioners Thursday they made a mistake in terminating the contract of the county manager.

"I beg you to reconsider your vote," county employee Joe Young said.

Commissioners again rejected a motion to offer a new contract to Hannes Zacharias.

A packed room greeted Zacharias with a standing ovation before the meeting began.

He's widely credited for helping Johnson County services rank at the top in citizen satisfaction surveys.

Employee after employee asked commissioners to renew Zacharias' contract, saying that Johnson County does not need a change in direction as the majority of commissioners claim.

After about 90 minutes of testimony a motion to extend the manager a new contract failed by a 4 to 3 margin.

"There is some real controversy among the seven about where you want to go in terms of funding for the arts, in terms of diversity and so forth," Zacharias said. "How much we want to be engaged in some of those areas instead of more traditional activities, bricks and mortar, roadways and so forth."

Some speakers promised to remember how county commissioners have voted the next time they're up for re-election.

At least one man told the crowd they needed to trust the county commissioners' decision.

No commissioner who voted to terminate Zacharias spoke publicly about it during the meeting.

Zacharias says he intends to stay in Johnson County, but he says he's not sure what the future holds for him.

He did say the commission is divided with a majority now seeking a more socially conservative, less regulatory direction in county government.