Name, election changes? What to know about proposed Johnson County charter amendments

Kansas News

OLATHE, Kan. — After months of public feedback and review, the Johnson County Character Commission will soon begin reviewing changes to the Johnson County Home Rule Charter that could be placed on the 2022 ballot.

As of Tuesday, the charter commission has received 15 proposed amendments to the charter and three recommendations to the Johnson County Board of Commissioners (BOCC). 

All proposals and recommendations have been submitted anonymously. 

The charter commission will begin the first round of hearings for potential ballot initiatives on Monday. 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. Recommendations to the BOCC will be voted on in the same manner; however, recommendations will not advance to the ballot.

Here’s a look at what’s being considered:

Recommendations to BOCC: 

  1. A recommendation to review and reconsider Reverend Thomas Johnson as the namesake of Johnson County. The recommendation points to Johnson’s role as a slave owner and leader in the “Bogus Legislature,” stating Johnson’s acts do not embody the values or ideals of the people of Johnson County. 
Proposed resolution for the Johnson County Charter Commission to consider
  1. A recommendation to continue efforts to consolidate rural fire districts in Johnson County. The recommendation outlines a desire for a standardization of service for county residents by contractually utilizing major fire departments in cities like Lenexa, Olathe and Overland Park within the county.
  2. A recommendation to reorganize sub-commissions not currently under the direct control of the Elected County Commissioners and the Charter Commission to a structure that is.  

Proposed Amendments to the Charter: 

  1. A proposal to change the election status of the sheriff’s position to a nonpartisan race.  
  1. The creation of a public health and safety governing board to provide oversight for the public health department and county sheriff’s department.  
  1. Change the format of all county elections from nonpartisan to partisan races. 
  2. A proposal for all vacancies on the Board of County Commissioners to be filled by special election, unless the next scheduled election is within 90 days of the position becoming vacant.
  1. A proposal requiring all directors and members of governing boards to be appointed by the Board of County Commissioners. Each member of the Johnson County Library System, Parks and Recreation District, Mental Health Center, Developmental Supports, and the Airport Commission would be appointed based on education and experience. This proposal would require all appointees to reside within the county. 
  1.  A proposal to delete Section 2.08 in the Home Rule Charter that reads: 

“Prior to April 1, 2002, the Commission, under its current procedures, as prescribed by law, shall re-district 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.”  

The proposal requests the section be removed and Section 2.09 of the charter be renumbered at Section 2.08. 

  1. A proposal to modify Section 5.02 to give the county manager power to appoint, suspend or dismiss all non-elected department directors, including the county clerk, the register of deeds, and the county treasurer. 

The proposal also calls for a redrafting of Section 5.05 to read as;

“The District Attorney and the Sheriff shall be selected by popular vote in a nonpartisan election held every 4 years. The Commissioners shall review and approve the budgets for each elected office. Each elected office is subject to the personnel policies and procedures established by the BOCC and all other administrative policies adopted by [the] Commission to the extent not inconsistent with law.” 

  1. A proposal to delete Section 6.03 that lists the need for the Board of County Commissioners to appoint seven members to the 1999 Charter Commission. The proposal requests the section be removed and Section 6.04 of the charter be renumbered at Section 6.03 and readjusted to read:

“A Charter Commission, composed and appointed provided by statute, shall be created within 30 days of a date which follows 10 years after the effective date of this Charter (the second Thursday of January 2001), and at least every 10 years thereafter.” 

  1. A proposal for the Board of County Commissioners to form a Health Advisory Council. The health council would be tasked with providing guidance to county commissioners when the board is facing difficult public health questions. The Health Advisory Council would consist of physicians, medical care providers, hospital representatives, and members of the general public. If the advisory board is created, the Board of County Commissioners would continue to make the final decisions as the Public Health Board. 
  1. A proposal to limit an elected officials’ authority to increase their own pay and benefits. This proposal would modify charter Section 2.05, to include: 

“Increases in compensation and benefits that exceed the increase in the Consumer Price Index over the time period since the last compensation or benefits increase shall require approval by the voters.” 

  1. A proposal to change the At-Large, Board of County Commissioners Chair position to be elected on a five year term by amending a portion of Section 2.02 to read:

“Six Commissioners shall continue to be elected to four-year terms consistent with past practice. The Seventh District Commissioner elected in November 2022 shall be elected to a five-year term, after which term the Seventh District Commissioner shall thereafter be elected to four-year terms beginning in November 2027.”

  1.  A proposal requiring the Board of County Commissioners to approve new hires or reappointments of department directors or division heads. 
  1.  A proposal to change the currently appointed roles of county clerk, register of deeds and county treasurer to elected positions.
  1.  A proposal to create the position of Johnson County Unincorporated Trustee to be elected by residents of unincorporated portions of the county.
  2.  A proposal to change the currently appointed position of Head of the Johnson County Appraisal Office to an elected position. 

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