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New conversation spurred in metro city that doesn’t observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. -- While most banks, schools and government offices were closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, that wasn’t the case at Harrisonville City Hall.

The Missouri city about 45 minutes south of Kansas City had their regularly scheduled Board of Alderman meeting, and city offices were open for business during the federal holiday.

Harrisonville revised its employee handbook sometime prior to 2009 to give employees 11 holidays. Presidents Day, Good Friday and two days each for Thanksgiving and Christmas are among them -- but Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not.

“It’s City Hall. I thought for sure they’d be closed," Tammy Roth said, though she added she wasn't offended by the city policy.

“I was surprised, and my son said, 'I think that’s disrespectful,' and I said, 'I do, too.' But that’s what we fight in Missouri a lot," Harrisonville resident Carolyn Flanery said.

Harrisonville Mayor Brian Hasek said he always wondered about the city’s decision not to observe the holiday.

“I’ve been in office since 2015 and never heard anybody say anything, and it seemed odd to me," he said. "OK, we aren’t closed on that day, so why aren’t we?"

Hasek said the city was already in the process of reviewing employee policy, so he decided to bring up the city's observed holiday at Monday night's meeting after being contacted by FOX 4.

"It’s something maybe we are out of date on, and I think maybe we need to update and make that a holiday that we observe," Hasek said.

But some on the board said there’s still room for discussion.

“I have no issue with them using the holiday for business if they feel the need," board member Jessica Levsen said. "I don’t think today should be the only day we discuss Martin Luther King and civil rights.”

By some accounts, Harrisonville is only 1 percent African-American. FOX 4 couldn't track down any people of color living in Harrisonville for comment on the issue.

Regardless, Hasek said he believes Martin Luther King Jr. is someone who should be honored by people of all races.