Posts Tagged ‘benjamin hodge’

JCCC leaders Terry Calaway, Shirley Brown-VanArsdale, Lynn Mitchelson increase the property tax rate, then mislead the public about it

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

JCCC leaders appear unable to tell the truth about anything these days.  The property tax rate is being increased, and that’s a fact.  But JCCC leaders are trying to pretend that this is an opinion that is up for debate.

At Thursday night’s monthly JCCC Board of Trustees meeting, chair Shirley Brown-VanArsdale said that she didn’t “agree” with Trustee Benjamin Hodge that JCCC is increasing taxes.  But The Kansas City Star reported that, Johnson County homeowners will, in fact, pay a higher percent of their property taxes this year to JCCC, when compared to what trustees approved in last year’s budget.  Jim Sullinger reports:

In other action, trustees approved a $134.3 million budget for the next school year. It includes a $4 increase in credit-hour tuition for students living in Kansas and a property tax levy equal to the amount levied last year – $8.77 on each $1,000 of assessed value.

However, Benjamin Hodge, a trustee, pointed out that the proposed levy was not the same as trustees approved a year ago. That amount was $8.75 cents on each $1,000 of assessed value.

He noted that by October the county had increased that levy amount by .019 mills or about 2 cents on each $1,000. Don Perkins, the college’s budget director, said the 2-cent increase was caused by a rare reduction in the county’s overall assessed value amid a worsening economy and slumping real estate values. To collect enough tax money to fund the college budget, the county made the 2-cent adjustment.

Hodge asked the board to roll back the $8.77 levy by 2 cents. His motion failed for lack of a second. He then voted against the budget.

After the trustee meeting, Perkins said the county could increase levies this coming October if the economy and home values do not improve.

In Kansas, local governments rarely actually vote on a property tax mill levy.  Rather, based off of the county appraiser’s office, local governments make assumptions of the total value of private property, and then elected officials vote on a dollar amount for the budget.  In the rare occurance of the assumptions being lower than expected — if property values decrease more than expected — because the total budget stays the same, what necessarily occurs is an automatic tax increase on property.

That’s what happened last year at JCCC.  The county appraiser’s office was incorrect and assumed a too-high total property value across the county.  And because JCCC wanted the same total dollar amount, an automatic (without any votes) increase occurred in the property tax rate.

As Sullinger reported, JCCC’s financial director Don Perkins said that an automatic tax increase may may AGAIN happen this year.

At last week’s board meeting, Trustee Hodge pointed out that the property tax rate had increased above what trustees had voted on in 2008.  Therefore, Hodge was not trying to decrease taxes, but he was merely attempting to restore the mill levy (which is a percent of a homeowner’s property value) to the original 2008 tax rate.

Hodge on KCMO 710′s morning show: The good news is we cut the budget 6%, the bad news is JCCC is probably the most openly unethical government in KCMO.

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Johnson County Community College Trustee Benjamin Hodge was interviewed by guest host Jack Cashill on this morning’s Chris Stigall’s KCMO 710 AM Morning Show.  They talked some about the college’s budget, and Hodge said the good news at JCCC is that they’re going to cut the budget by 6%.  Hodge asked listeners to remember JCCC‘s 6% budget cut as they continue to hear other governments complain loudly about much smaller budget cuts, and as they see the federal budget continue to grow.  The JCCC trustee said that the college would not even notice a difference next year as it operates without the dollars being removed from next year’s budget.

But Hodge said the bad news is that JCCC — currently under the leadership of JCCC’s CEO and President Terry Calaway, and Trustee Leaders Shirley Brown-VanArsdale and Lynn Mitchelson – is perhaps the “most openly unethical” government in the Kansas City, MO, metro area.  He explained his use of the term “openly unethical” by saying that officials in most governments attempt to hide their unethical behavior, but “in Johnson County, we give ourselves awards for it.”  They discussed the thousands of dollars that JCCC is spending on legal fees to cover up what Hodge said what should have been considered relatively minor violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.  Hodge compared JCCC’s actions surrounding the likely KOMA violations to “getting a speeding ticket, and then abusing government power to attempt to destroy the career of the police officer.”

Cashill and Hodge also discussed the college’s addition of health benefits for the college’s gay employees, and how President calaway and HR committee chairman Mitchelson abused their leadership roles by secretly inserting the benefits without board discussion or even alerting other board members to their actions.  JCCC is the first government body in Kansas to add taxpayer-supported domestic partnership benefits.

After unethical behavior and thousands of dollars wasted by JCCC leaders to cover-up mistakes, Hodge requests formal review by JoCo District Attorney

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

In December, JCCC attorney Mark Ferguson told four members of the JCCC Board of Trustees — including the board chair and vice-chair — that they broke the open meetings law.  In March, JCCC leaders lied by saying that they have always followed the law.

In March, JCCC leaders Shirley Brown-VanArsdale and Lynn Mitchelson gave new meaning to the phrase “the cover-up is worse than the crime” by wasting thousands of dollars on legal fees, when the purpose was only meant to mislead the public.  They even asked JCCC Mark Ferguson to get an “unofficial opinion” — whatever that means — from the district attorney and state attorney general, though the public was never made aware about those discussions.

Only Trustee Benjamin Hodge has now asked for an official opinion from District Attorney Steve Howe, who has confirmed to The Kansas City Star that an investigation is under way.

Prime Buzz:

Here are the instances he wants the DA to examine.

He wrote a letter to the editor, which was printed in The Star Nov. 29, suggesting the board might be considering an increase in property taxes. It prompted a December letter signed by four of the six trustees denying Hodge’s assertion.

Hodge believes a letter signed by a majority of the board violated the open meetings law.

He believes the second violation may have occurred during a closed executive session Feb. 19 in which the board met to review the performance of Terry Calaway, college president.

Prior to the meeting, Hodge said he would evaluate Calaway based on a budget proposal that did not raise taxes.

Calaway responded during his closed evaluation with a list of more than 50 budget cuts being considered at the time as administrators worked on a budget proposal that was presented to the board earlier this month.

Hodge said he never asked for such a list to be presented during Calaway’s review. Calaway said he presented the list to show Hodge that he was working on reductions that ultimately would not raise taxes.

JCCC leaders face District Attorney review of open meetings law

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

On Friday, JCCC Trustee Benjamin Hodge filed with Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe a detailed summary of two likely violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act at Johnson County Community College.  District Attorney Howe is not required to investigate the request, but Hodge says he would be surprised if a formal review is not performed.

Here is a link to the 106-page document (PDF) that is now filed with the district attorney’s office.

At RedCounty.com, Trustee Hodge writes that included in the formal KOMA complaint is the detailed 64-item budget list that President Calaway chose to share during a closed meeting, and that Calaway claims should be considered part of his own job evaluation.  Hodge writes:

I encourage readers to look at the 64 items on the list, on page 102.  Is this the type of information that closely relates to Terry Calaway’s private job evaluation?  I don’t think so, and neither does The Kansas City Star nor The Kansas Press Association.  This is budget information, information that the Kansas Open Meetings Act requires be discussed during an open session.

For Lynn Mitchelson and Shirley Brown-VanArsdale, the cover-up is worse than the crime

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Johnson County Community College elected leaders Lynn Mitchelson (Mission Woods) and Shirley Brown-VanArsdale (Gardner) broke the law.  That’s not merely the opinion of the taxpayers who have followed recent events at JCCC — that’s according to JCCC attorney Mark Ferguson.  In an Email sent late December 2008 to the entire board and JCCC President Terry Calaway, Ferguson confirmed that four board members — Lynn Mitchelson, Shirley Brown-VanArsdale, Jon Stewart, and Don Weiss — had violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA, for short) by agreeing in private to the contents of a letter to the editor that was published in The Kansas City Star on December 10, 2008.  The letter’s topic was whether JCCC would be increasing the property tax mill levy.  The letter was political in nature, and it discussed college business, and it therefore fell under the guidelines of KOMA.

In an effort of good will, Hodge in December chose not to make public the embarrassing fact of the ignorance of Mitchelson and Brown-VanArsdale toward Kansas laws.

Lynn Mitchelson

Shirley Brown-VanArsdale

(more…)

Hodge calls for new board leadership elections

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

At Redcounty.com/johnson, JCCC Trustee Benjamin Hodge calls for new elected board leaders.  Currently, Shirley Brown-VanArsdale is the board chair and Lynn Mitchelson is the vice chair.  But Hodge says, “There has been an absurd amount of unethical behavior in recent weeks by JCCC President Calaway and by the current JCCC board leadership” and that “the budget is too important” an issue.

Hodge suggests Trustee Jon Stewart be appointed chair.

Calaway unchanged after being told by Star that he broke the open meetings law

Friday, March 13th, 2009

For the first time in JCCC President Terry Calaway’s career in Johnson County, county taxpayers are beginning to ask if there is any noticeable difference in the level of trustworthiness of the new president and the old president.

At AllThingsJoco, Tracy Thomas calls Terry Calaway “The New Chuck,” in reference to former JCCC President Charles Carlsen.  Calaway’s behavior during the last two weeks can only be described as odd, and it is quickly damaging his reputation and that of Board Chair Shirley Brown-VanArsdale of Gardner. (more…)

Weekend poll: do you trust local JoCo government?

Friday, February 6th, 2009

Go to RedCounty.com to vote on a poll about local government in Johnson County.

There are five questions:

Which of these local governments is the most out of touch with its citizens?

Johnson County Government
JCCC
Overland Park
Olathe
Lenexa
Shawnee

Which of these local governments best represents the views of its citizens?
JCCC
Overland Park
Olathe
Lenexa
Shawnee

In general, do you trust local elected officials in Johnson County?
Yes
No

In general, do you think your mayor is a:
Capitalist
Socialist

If you had two choices: to either keep all local elected politicians, or to replace them all with individuals selected at random from the phone book:
Keep all
Replace all

Johnson County’s Red County section one of the fastest-growing ever on the network

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Congratulations to the team of writers at the five-week old Johnson County section of the RedCounty.com network, for building one of the fastest-growing sections in the two-year-old RedCounty’s history.

The Red County national network has about 40 separate blogs.  The Johnson County section already is ranked number 8 in page views since January 1.

The full Web address for the Johnson County section is www.redcounty.com/johnson.