Archive for Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Commissioner alleges violation of meetings law

November 24, 1999

A Leavenworth county commissioner this week asked state officials to investigate allegations that two other commissioners violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

Wayne Eldridge, who represents portions of the county outside the city of Leavenworth, sent a letter to the Kansas attorney general's office alleging that fellow commissioners Bob Adams and Don Navinsky have violated the open meetings law at least three times.

In separate telephone inverviews, Navinsky and Adams denied the allegations on Tuesday.

Eldridge, who said he was acting on information provided by constituents, emphasized that he and the two other commissioners were well-trained about the open meetings law after they took office.

"They pounded that into our heads, that two commissioners do not ride together," Eldridge said. "They both know the darned rules."

The law prohibits the majority of a quorum in this case, two commissioners from meeting in private.

That's exactly what occurred twice in spring 1997, according to Charlie Conrad, a Tonganoxie resident who works for Leavenworth County EMS. Navinsky and Adams met at the EMS station five miles from the courthouse with EMS officials to talk about payroll and accounts receivable, among other county business.

"The issue needs to be resolved," Conrad said.

The third allegation in Eldridge's complaint says that Navinsky and Adams met last week to discuss sales tax issues with the Leavenworth City Commission without informing the public or even Eldridge.

"No one in the office knew about it," Eldridge said.

Eldridge said Navinsky and Adams have formed a coalition one that Eldridge isn't part of.

"It's pretty hard to do anything and get anything done," he said.
"Believe me, it's a solid 2-1 vote or a 3-0."

Navinsky, when informed by The Mirror about the allegations during a telephone interview late Tuesday afternoon, said he has not violated the law.

"I am adhering to the open meeting laws of Kansas," said Navinsky, who's been a member of the commission since 1995.

He said he and Adams attended a Leavenworth City Commission meeting last week "to listen to the city's plea." He said Eldridge was aware of the meeting beforehand.

"That meeting was on the Leavenworth city's agenda," Navinsky said. "That meeting was televised. That meeting was attended by two people of the press. The other county commissioner knew about it."

Adams, too, said he didn't conduct the county's business in private. He called the allegation that he and Navinsky violated the law by attending a city commission meeting "far-fetched."

"As far as I knew, Mr. Eldridge knew that meeting was taking place, and he didn't choose to attend," Adams said. "There were no decisions made. We were asked to be there the county commissioners, plural, three to have conversations about that sales tax by the commissioners of Leavenworth."

He said he and Navinsky have formed no coalitions.

"I don't buy into anything that I'm in cahoots with another commissioner," Adams said. "My purpose here is to help the employees and department heads and supervisors to do their job better. I'm not making decisions on my own or in cahoots with another commissioner."

Steve Phillips, assistant attorney general, said he forwarded Eldridge's complaint to Leavenworth County attorney Frank Kohl, the normal procedure in such cases.

That concerns Eldridge, who pointed out that Kohl's office budget is approved by the county commission.

"I think anybody would see a conflict there. The AG's office ought to be the one investigating it," he said.

Kohl was in Topeka and unavailable for comment Tuesday, an office representative said.

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