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Commission charged with updating the Johnson County charter

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OLATHE, Kan. – The Johnson County Charter Commission will tackle a ten-year task that could shape county policy for years to come.

The commission is made up of 25 members who are appointed every 10 years to gather public comment and consider possible changes to the Johnson County Charter of Self-Government.

Any proposal to modify the charter will be entered on the 2022 ballot.

“The charter can only be changed by the voters,” said charter commission chairman Greg Musil. “The proposed amendments may be tabled on the ballot by the charter committee or by a qualified majority of the votes of the seven members of the county committee. ”

On Wednesday, the commission held a public hearing in Olathe and received comments from more than a dozen residents. One of the main topics many people weighed in was the county sheriff’s potential to transition from an elected position to a position appointed by the Johnson County Board of Commissioners (BOCC).

Phil Bauer of Leawood has said he does not support the sheriff’s office becoming an appointed position. Bauer said he would like to see positions like county manager and county treasurer return to elected positions instead of being appointed as they are now.

Shawnee resident Robert Davis said he believed the traditional method of electing a county sheriff held that person accountable to residents.

“The question of appointing or electing a sheriff should absolutely not be put on the ballot,” said Davis. “The sheriff represents the citizens of the county and must be loyal to them, not to a committee that has the power to appoint or remove them. ”

Overland Park resident David Ball said he was strongly opposed to the BOCC having the power to appoint the county sheriff.

“It would be a waste of time and money for our taxpayers,” Ball said. “I would like to ask you how suspicious of the people of Johnson County are you?” Do you think we are unable to make a decision on who we want as sheriff, or do you just dislike the sheriff we elected? ”

The Charter Commission will begin the first round of hearings for potential voting initiatives on November 8. If a proposal receives at least nine votes of support from the committee, it will go to a second hearing.

A proposal must have at least 13 votes of support during the second hearing to be entered on the ballot.

During Wednesday’s public hearing, residents also weighed in on a proposal to allow Johnson County Commissioners’ Council races to be partisan.

Cassie Woolworth has said she wants the charter to stay the same.

“Impartiality is the way to go. Leave the charter as is, ”Woolworth said.

Overland Park resident Richard Pund spoke at the public hearing via Zoom. Pund said he was concerned that making the BOCC elections partisan would reduce overall voter turnout.

“In the Kansas House election last year, there were several races in areas dominated by Democrats and Republicans that only competed in the primaries,” Pund said. “I think it’s a big deal wherever it’s going. If there are multiple candidates for a position, voters should not have to register with one party just to have their say. ”

“This question should not be on the ballot. We should be looking for ways to provide people with truthful and unbiased information about candidates, including having candidates come forward with party affiliation, ”said Bob Talley. “We should add questions that would add more offices elected by the people, not

Steve Smith said he believes listing the BOCC race as non-partisan won’t prevent candidates from aligning with a specific political party.

“Just because you declare something to be non-partisan does not mean that the people in it will behave in a non-partisan manner. One of the most difficult things we have to do in an election is to vet the candidates. Impartiality allows candidates to hide behind impartiality, ”Smith said.

The deadline for submitting the proposed changes is November 1. County residents can submit written comments to the commission on the Charter Commission website. The next meeting of the Charter Commission is scheduled for September 22 at 4 p.m.

The Charter Commission must submit a final report of its findings and recommendations to the BOCC by February 4, 2022.


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