Kansas City Election Board reviewing petition signatures to recall council member

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An effort to recall a sitting Kansas City council member is gaining steam.

The Kansas City Election Board said Tuesday it started going through roughly 2,500 signatures, part of a petition to remove District Four Councilman Eric Bunch.

Shannon Bjornlie is part of the Take KC Back political action committee.

They’re unhappy with Bunch’s May vote to reallocate about $42 million KCPD budget to a separate fund emphasizing social services, mental health programs and more.

“We see it as defunding because there’s no plan,” Bjornlie said. “The money doesn’t say specifically that it has to go back to the police department.”

The group supports KCPD Chief Rick Smith, who Bunch has publicly said needs to resign.

Here’s what Bunch told FOX4’s Sherae Honeycutt in January: “It’s time to make the change.  It’s time to see sweeping reform of law enforcement and create more accountability.”

Election officials said the group needs 20% of Bunch’s constituency to remove him.

“About 30 years ago is the last time that I actually remember this happening,” said Director of Elections Shawn Kieffer.

Kieffer said his staff will check the validity of the signatures, making sure none are duplicates or from someone not registered in district four.

“It’ll take us about a week to get it done,” Kieffer said. “Then, we’ll submit the results back up to the city clerk. She’ll determine if they have enough signatures or not. If they don’t, she’ll submit a letter to this group telling them how many they’re short and giving them some additional time to collect those signatures.”

Kieffer said if they have enough, Bunch could be asked to resign. If he doesn’t, Kieffer said this could come to a public vote.

Bunch didn’t want to comment on the recall Tuesday, but in a thread of tweets he previously called the KCPD reallocation, “A vote I still stand firmly behind.” Bunch added, “You and your local officials can ensure that KCPD uses your tax dollars as intended — at least for a portion of their budget.  Gone are the days of writing a blank check to the governor-appointed police commission.”

“We want crime prevention, no one is against that in our organization, not at all,” Bjornlie said. “We just don’t want it at the expense of the police budget. Find the money elsewhere, and they can.”

Kieffer said it’s unlikely this gets on the November ballot as the deadline was Tuesday. He said it’s more likely we see it in April 2022.

Kieffer added the group may not have the 2,427 signatures it needs, as about one-quarter of them are often thrown out for various reasons.

“There’s a lot of people who are not registered that sign these petitions, there’s people in the wrong district, there’s many reasons we deny these signatures,” Kieffer said. “I would be very surprised if they have enough with what they’ve submitted.”

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