Challenge to unfilled UG Commission seat has day in court; bill drafted to change law on vacancies

by Mary Rupert

A challenge to the Unified Government’s leaving a commission seat unfilled for more than a year was heard in court today.

A human rights activist, Alvin Sykes, said both sides presented reasons for summary judgment, and the court took the case under advisement. Currently, an effort also is underway from a state legislator, Sen. David Haley, to change the law on filling vacancies.

In the lawsuit in Wyandotte County District Court, a resident challenged the local government, saying that the commission’s 1st District, at large, seat should have been filled. The seat was left unfilled after a majority of six votes could not be reached for either of two finalist candidates for the appointment. In a court filing, the UG had argued that filling the vacancy was “discretionary.”

The issue was reopened this past summer, and on Aug. 7 the mayor proposed to reopen the voting and leave out the top two vote-getters, and have the commission vote on the remaining candidates. The commission voted 5-4 in favor of the mayor’s idea, with six votes needed to pass. At the time the mayor said that it would be the last time it came up before the next election.

“In response to the at-large situation, the mayor brought it up twice, to a vote twice, and it was voted down twice,” said spokesman Bill Hurrelbrink of Mayor Mark Holland’s office. “The mayor is fully supportive of filling the at-large position, but the times he brought it up, it’s been voted down. The mayor supports filling that position.”

For some of the comments of commissioners in August, visit this earlier story,

Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, Sykes said an effort is being made to introduce legislation next year that would prevent an unfilled seat from happening again.

“It is and continues to be my deepest belief that the people of Wyandotte County have been shortchanged,” said Sen. Haley, D-4th Dist.

He said that in a democracy, every elected office should not remain vacant for a long period of time. He added that researchers have not found any other elected position that has remained vacant in Kansas longer than 42 days. That instance was when someone died in office and the government waited a period of time out of respect to the widow, he said.

Sen. Haley said he has had a bill drafted and asked for comments on what should be a reasonable amount of time a position should be vacant. His draft bill lists 30 days, but that is subject to change, he said.

The UG’s charter, while it says that a person shall be appointed to fill a vacancy on the commission, does not give a length of time in which the position must be filled. Also, it does not state how a tie will be broken.

Sen. Haley’s draft bill states: “The purpose of this section is to provide an orderly and prompt means of filling vacancies in the governing body of a municipality. Prolonged vacancies in the governing body of a municipality deprive citizens of their right to representation and act as impediments to the orderly function of government of municipalities.”

Under this draft bill, if a position in the municipal governing board is not filled within 30 days, then it would be filled by a random drawing by the city clerk of a name of one of the applicants for the position.

Sen. Haley said it is “galling” to hear the anguish of people not being represented against the backdrop of some of the commission’s suggestion that an at-large district doesn’t really need to be represented or that the district is well-represented without a commissioner.

Sen. Haley said he is open to comments from other people about changes that can be made in the draft bill.

While he is hoping other legislators support the bill, even if the rest of the legislative delegation does not back this effort, Sen. Haley said he still plans to introduce it.

“If I’m alone in my thinking, it’s still the right thing to do,” he said.

Haley, who twice was the Democratic nominee for secretary of state, the highest election official in Kansas, said he has a strong belief that it matters if the people are represented.

He said he would like to make sure that as many different people as possible are heard.

“We don’t want to consolidate into the hands of one or the hands of a few the ability for representation to be found for the general public,” Sen. Haley said.

After the unfilled commission seat issue is resolved, if there is no change to the UG charter, Sykes said plans are being made to challenge the rotation of districts in the mayoral contest under the Voting Rights Act in U.S. District Court.

Under the rules of the UG’s charter, four commissioners running for mayor have to give up their seats, while the other four who run for mayor can return to their seats for two years. This schedule is not rotated under the current rules, so that, for example, the commissioner from District 1 always has to give up his seat to run for mayor, while the commissioner from District 3 never has to give up his seat to run for mayor.

“By the time we’re through, we will have a change, a far better, equal form of government, and representation for our people in Wyandotte County,” Sykes said.

To see a previous story on this topic, visit

KCKCC at Cowley Wednesday in battle of Jayhawk leaders

by Alan Hoskins

From the frying pan into the fire. That’s the task facing Kansas City Kansas Community College’s No. 5 ranked volleyball team.

Last Wednesday, the Lady Blue Devils defeated No. 4 ranked Johnson County in a 3-2 thriller. This Wednesday, the Blue Devils play at Cowley County, the defending NJCAA Division II champion at Arkansas City at 6:30 p.m.

Currently ranked No. 10 but about to move up in the NJCAA poll, Cowley leads the Jayhawk Conference with a 5-0 record and an overall mark of 15-6; KCKCC is 4-0 in the conference and 18-3 on the season. Both teams have won nine of their last 10 contests.

KCKCC stayed unbeaten in the Jayhawk Monday with a 25-11, 27-17, 25-23 sweep of Highland. “A team victory,” said KCKCC coach Mary Bruno, who is looking for her first ever win over Cowley Wednesday.

Residents learn about police crisis intervention and terrorism training

Capt. Doug Parisi gave a presentation on crisis intervention at a recent citizens class. (Photo by William Crum)
Capt. Doug Parisi gave a presentation on crisis intervention at a recent citizens class. (Photo by William Crum)

by William Crum

At the recent citizens police academy class, presentations were made on crisis intervention and terrorism.

Capt. Doug Parisi gave a presentation on crisis intervention. Crisis intervention involves how a police officer should deal with the mentally ill. It was not until recently that a program like this was started.

It was first started in Memphis, Tenn., where a police officer shot a person who was mentally ill.

Currently there are 1,250 crisis intervention programs in the United States. In the past, a person who is mentally ill would be put in jail. A person who is mentally ill requires a lot more attention than a person who is not.

The average person only spends about one day in jail before they bail out of jail. The mentally ill person has a tendency to stay in jail a lot longer and they require a lot of attention, therefore costing the taxpayers more money. It costs the citizens roughly $50,000 a year just to house a person who is mentally ill when he or she is in jail.

Wyandotte County has a lot of programs such as Rainbow House, a facility that can house someone on a temporary basis instead of leaving a person who is mentally ill in jail, saving the taxpayers a lot of money in the long run, said Capt. Doug Parisi.

“We train an officer on crisis intervention; we teach them the proper approach,” he said. “In fact we currently have a therapist on call 24 hours a day in case that particular officer might need some advice on how to handle that person who is mentally ill. It is very hard for a lot of the officers to do this mainly because of the stress that the officers have to deal with on a daily basis. This is why we have such a program as this. We teach the officers to think outside the box,” Capt. Parisi said.

The second presentation, on terrorism, was given by Detective Jim Bauer.

“We try to do is to respond in a timely manner and minimize the loss of lives in case a terroristic act might happen, Detective Bauer said. “There is no set pattern what a terroristic group might do. Every terrorist group uses a different tactic. They use it as a weapon to bring about change. For the most part the members of these groups are not well educated.”

“If you’re aware of anyone attempting to improperly acquire explosives, weapons, ammunition, dangerous chemicals, are you aware of anyone who does not appear to belong in the workplace, neighborhood or a key facility? You are to contact the police department immediately,” Detective Bauer said.

All agencies in the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area work together on terrorism and constantly communicate.

“I see the active terrorism happening more frequently. I answer directly to the deputy chiefs and police chief,” Bauer said.

The terrorism task force number is 816-512-8200; it is sponsored by the Federal Bureau of investigation.

Detective Jim Bauer gave a presentation on terrorism to residents attending a class recently. (Photo by William Crum)
Detective Jim Bauer gave a presentation on terrorism to residents attending a class recently. (Photo by William Crum)