Archive for Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Legal wrangling clouds McLouth elections

January 23, 2008

It appears as though McLouth may not have City Council elections in April.

City attorney Carol Ruth Bonebrake said Monday it was her understanding an election would not be called, according to discussions she has had with Jefferson County Counselor Michael Hayes.

The McLouth City Council approved a charter ordinance Jan. 8 that was supposed to right a wrong made in 2002 when an ordinance pertaining to elections was approved to amend a 1982 charter ordinance dealing with election procedure. The 2002 ordinance was found to be invalid earlier this month after Bonebrake and Mayor Mike Graveman had been reviewing ordinances in preparation for the Jan. 8 council meeting.

The 2008 charter ordinance called for two publications in the city's official newspaper, a 61-day protest period and then an April 1, election for seats if the ordinance passed the protest period.

However, discussions between Bonebrake and Hayes moved the issue in a different direction.

After talks with the offices of the attorney general and secretary of state, as well as the Kansas League of Municipalities, Bonebrake determined elections in McLouth in 2003, 2005 and 2007 were void.

At the Jan. 8 meeting, the council approved a new charter ordinance because the 2002 ordinance was a regular ordinance, not a charter, which is required by law to amend a previous charter ordinance.

The new charter ordinance would have put all seats up for election. The mayor and top two council members with the most votes each would win a three-year term, while top vote-getters for the remaining three seats would receive one-year terms. The plan was supposed to get McLouth's election schedule back on schedule and solve the problem the 2002 ordinance caused.

However, Hayes deemed the newest charter ordinance incorrect because it would not be valid until after the protest period, according to Bonebrake.

"And because he concluded the law not effective, he could not advise the county election officer to call the election," Bonebrake said. "I believe there is a difference between calling an election and conducting."

On Monday, Hayes declined comment, citing attorney-client privilege.

Bonebrake said the city would be referring back to the 1982 charter ordinance for direction. The 1982 calls for annual elections, so the city of McLouth is moving forward with its April 1 election under that premise.

However, Bonebrake said Hayes had not responded to McLouth's latest proposed plan of action.

"He's not trying to make life difficult for McLouth," Bonebrake said. "But he has a different perspective, based upon our research."

The council met in regular session Tuesday, but the meeting ran past The Mirror's press deadline. However, reports may be found online at tonganoxiemirror.com and in the Jan. 30 edition of The Mirror.

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