Johnson County continues discussion on potential changes to county charter

Kansas News

OLATHE, Kan. — After months of review, members of the Johnson County Charter Commission will continue first round voting on potential changes to the county Home Rule Charter into December.

On Wednesday, the 25-member commission discussed four of the original 15 proposals for potential changes to the charter that could appear on the 2022 ballot. 

If a proposal receives at least nine votes of support from the commission, it will progress on to a second hearing. A proposal must have at least 13 votes of support in the second hearing to be placed on the ballot.

Commissioner Greg Smith withdrew a proposal that would have required all directors and members of governing boards to be appointed by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and reside within the county.

The commission agreed to combine original proposals two and nine, which would create a Health and Safety Advisory Council. Under the proposal, the council would provide guidance when the BOCC acts as the Board of Health. If the advisory board is created, the BOCC would continue to make the final decisions as the Public Health Board. 

Commissioners Ed Peterson and Joy Koesten submitted the joint proposal as a reaction to the county’s response to the pandemic. 

“We feel that going forward there’s got to be a better way of formulating a community-wide approach to these community-wide crises,” Peterson said.  

Peterson said forming a Health Advisory Board would allow people with various perspectives to contribute to health recommendations that affect the community as a whole. After receiving 12 votes of support, the proposal will progress to a second hearing. 

A proposal from Prairie Village Mayor Eric Mikkelson will progress to a second hearing after receiving support from 18 commissioners. The proposal would limit an elected officials’ authority to increase their own pay and benefits beyond the increase in the Consumer Price Index.

Mikkelson said he’s unaware of any current problems in Johnson County, but feels that by setting limits it could prevent any potential abuse of power. 

“It struck me that no elected body should have unfettered discretion to set its own salary with taxpayer money. That’s an inherent conflict of interest in that decision,”  Mikkelson said. 

On Wednesday, the commission reviewed and unanimously approved the advancement of a proposal to amend Section 2.08 in the Home Rule Charter to read: 

“Prior to April 1, 2002, the Commission, under its current procedures, as prescribed by law, shall redistrict in a manner to create the Sixth District. The Seventh District will not require any reapportionment of population and revision of district boundaries since the Seventh District Commissioner represents the County as a whole.” 

A proposal requiring the Board of County Commissioners to approve new hires or reappointments of department directors or division heads will move on to a second hearing. 

Remaining proposals will be reviewed and voted on at the next commission meeting. 

The next Charter Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 6 at 4 p.m. at the BEST Conference Center on the KU Edwards campus.

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