KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A surprise vote at Thursday night’s meeting has led to a major shake-up in how the Unified Government of Wyandotte County conducts meetings.
Mayor Tyrone Garner had already moved to adjourn the meeting and wished the crowd a Merry Christmas when a motion was made to suspend the adjournment and add an item to the agenda and a letter began circulating from Commissioner Angela Markley.
After several minutes of quiet huddling and a 10 minute recess, Markley announced a proposal to change the way the body conducts meetings, allowing commissioners to add items items to agendas and decide what items go to the full commission. An item could not be removed without the approval of the standing committee chair.
Previously, the mayor had the ability to set the agenda, including removing items that had passed through committee.
Commissioner Angela Markley said the rule change would simply codify what had been “long-standing tradition” at the UG.
“They’re meant to put into writing what has been long-standing commission tradition, I will say, which is that items that come through our standing committee arrive on our full commission agendas for a vote.”
Commissioner Tom Burroughs, who did not know about the agenda item in advance, chided commissioners for a lack of transparency, and said the discussions about power sharing could have been done in executive session.
“This is the season of spirit and in the spirit of fairness and transparency, if there’s a move afoot to change how we function as a government, we should collectively be working together to do that,” Burroughs said. “I think it does none of us any good to air our differences publicly.”
Garner said the move weakens his position as mayor.
“What you’re seeing is a rollback of the mayoral powers, the one power that every mayor has had up until me. I don’t control the agenda, in essence, is that what this action is going to mean? I have zero control over the agenda. That means my powers have totally been reversed and just relegates me to someone who just runs the commission meeting,” he said.
Commissioner Christian Ramirez said he had previously discussed giving more power to the commission to set the agenda, and the mayor agreed at the time.
“This is not taking anything away. It’s equalizing the playing field so that everyone has a chance to put something on the agenda so that it doesn’t become political,” he said.
The commission ultimately approved the procedural changes by a vote of 9 to 1, with Burroughs being the lone no vote.
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