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Strife among leaders in the Jackson County Legislature

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Jackson County Legislature held a closed session meeting Tuesday, Jan. 16 at noon to conduct ‘privileged and confidential communications between itself and the Jackson County Counselor.’

County legislator Scott Burnett introduced the special session.

Following that closed session, the legislature held its regularly scheduled public meeting at 2:30 p.m. Meetings are normally held on Mondays at 2:30 p.m., but was rescheduled due to the MLK Jr. holiday.

Fox 4 livestreamed the legislature’s open meeting, but they did not provide a hint as to what they discussed in closed session.

Tensions have been rising between some legislators and Jackson County Executive Frank White. Legislators want the Missouri attorney general to investigate White’s tax situation. The Kansas City Star reports White owed more than $5,000 in back state income taxes at the time he signed a sworn document when running for office that vowed all taxes were current.

Frank White being questioned about the Jackson County Detention Center by the legislature. Small picture insert: Frank White discussing Combat.

White says it was unintentional.

However, there are other issues that have caused a breakdown in the working relationship between White and the legislature.

Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker and some legislators are dismayed because they say White is not handing over control of COMBAT, the county’s anti-drug and anti-violence effort, to the prosecutor’s office, where authority was transferred by a legislative vote in December.

White vetoed the ordinance, the legislature overrode his vote and placed supervision of COMBAT under the prosecutor’s office. White has refused to follow that law.

“Today, oversight of Combat is placed under the prosecutor, the same place it originated, by the Legislature’s unanimous override of the County Executive’s veto. I will do my level best to restore trust for this important tax and provide oversight in a straightforward and transparent manner,” said Peters-Baker in a statement.

According to some legislators, Scott Jacoby, the county’s deputy director of finance, was put on leave when he refused to use COMBAT funds to pay county employees.

Last week, Scott Burnett, the chair of the Jackson County Legislature, Sheriff Mike Sharp, and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker called for White to reinstate Jacoby. They said he was dismissed for refusing to violate ordinances.

White was born in Mississippi, but grew up in Kansas City, attending Lincoln High School.  As a laborer he helped build Kaufman Stadium, where he would later spend 18 years as a Kansas City Royal, earning eight Gold Gloves and five All-Star Game selections as a second baseman. White was instrumental in helping the Royals to their first World Series Championship in 1985. White was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 1995.

White has served as county executive since January 2016 after he was appointed by the Jackson County Legislature in accordance with the County Charter process to replace Mike Sanders, who resigned. Before he became executive he was a county legislator in the 1st District at Large, since January 2015.

Look for more from Fox 4’s Shannon O’Brien, who is at the Jackson County Legislature meeting, 415 E 12th Street, and will have more on the Fox 4 Kansas City news app and on newscasts. This is a developing story and Fox 4 is seeking further comment.

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