In fact, according to today’s article in the Star by Jim Sullinger, the board’s attorney, Mark Ferguson, told the board in March that no violation occurred because the budget reduction list was presented to the board during an evaluation of Calaway.
Is this seriously their new defense?…
Steve Howe by all accounts is doing a good job. But, he is a politician like the rest of them and he was elected on a coalition that included some of these country club types that permeate the board. One can only guess that these folks would simply like this issue to go away, and for Howe to, in his opinion, rule that no violation occurred, vindicating their secret meetings and as such, their post-offense ridiculous exchanges with Hodge. To put it simply, they are assuredly all hoping D.A. Howe squashes that annoying wasp once and for all.
Of course, not all feel that way and that includes this blog. Even if the original violation was minor, there is no doubt, if the Kansas Open Meetings Act is to have any validity, that the JCCC Board of Trustees, by presenting budget information in an executive session, and by coordinating efforts in private in a letter to the Star, violated that law — both in word and in spirit.
As noted earlier, what’s the entire point of having such a law if BUDGET discussions are going to be held in private?
- In the JCCC Trustee race, in which the top 4 candidates (out of 10) won, Peter Jouras came in fifth, and I came in sixth. He didn’t beat me by much, but my guess is he spent at least $35,000 on the race (3 county-wide mailings and tons of signs). Jouras spent far, far more than I did, and he was endorsed by most of the major liberal-socialist-big-government groups (NEA, faculty union, Mainstream Coalition; all but Mission Hills/Arizonian Steve Rose), but he and I fared about the same. When I won the trustee race in April 2005, the turnout was 30%, which is closer to a representative sample of voters. That year, the marriage amendment carried the county 60-40 and Overland Park Mayor Gerlach beat a well-financed Democrat 60-40, and those proportions probably wouldn’t deviate much if held during a higher-turnout election.
- Moran-Tiahrt: you’ll hear at times from supporters of one campaign or the other about how their candidate is better-known in Kansas’ Third Congressional District. I haven’t seen any evidence to verify that statement.
- Thornburgh: I didn’t test Brownback’s name, because I had been told by a reliable source that his name ID was virtually 100% state-wide. One could certainly argue that it’s not a good thing for Thornburgh that Tiahrt and Moran have competiting name recognition levels, when Johnson County voters have never seen the congressmen’s names on local ballots.
- I am reassured by the general accuracy of my own poll after looking at another poll taken on April 17 by the well-respected firm SurveyUSA. HT to Bagyants.com, which first made me aware of this poll that tested likely 2010 voters for the Republican primary (not all voters, therefore). Part of the poll’s breakdown includes region: NE, SW, and Western; though, I don’t know exactly how they define these terms.
KMBC’s Jim Flink reporting last Wednesday. Click for video:
Over at a regional blog Principally Political: “Hodge pushes for budget, board transparency.”
“It looks like this could develop into one of those political flaps where the “cover up” … is worse than the actual “crime” … The issue started out as a small one, but in drawing attention to it Calaway has made it a larger one, and one that he may lose.
A more-or-less fair article by Jim Sullinger. The article doesn’t make absolutely clear that Trustee Benjamin Hodge did not ask for budget detail during executive session. It says: “Shortly before Calaway’s job performance evaluation, trustee Benjamin Hodge asked Calaway how he would address the declining revenue picture without raising taxes.” In actuality, it was days before that Hodge had asked for detail on budget plans.
The story became a larger issue after JCCC President Dr. Terry Calaway criticized Hodge for releasing budget information, criticized Sullinger’s reporting, and attempted to publicly justify a very broad — some say illegal — interpretation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.
Mike Merriam, an attorney for the Kansas Press Association and an expert on the open meetings act, said Friday that bringing up the budget material under the personnel exception was inappropriate in his opinion.
“These budget issues should not have been discussed as part of the evaluation,” he said, adding that the topics should have been handled separately.
The Kansas attorney general has said that meetings can be closed to discuss personnel only when the discussion applies to individuals, rather than groups that might be affected by a policy.
One week after the meeting, Hodge released the list at the request of a reporter for The Kansas City Star. Its existence and some of its contents were reported in the Prime Buzz section of the newspaper’s Web site.
Calaway then sent an e-mail to the college staff criticizing the release of the list.
Hodge said the list focused on pending budget issues and should be shared with the public.
The basic function of KOMA: it is almost always illegal for elected officials to gather in a private meeting to discuss government business. The Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees had a recent meeting to discuss ideas for dealing with a reduction in income to the college. Trustee Ben Hodge released information to the KC Star about the “closed” meeting and now the fat’s in the fire. Should the discussions be open? The JCCC President wants the discussions secret.
Hodge replies to JCCC’s Calaway
Benjamin Hodge, a member of the Johnson County Community College board of trustees, came under fire this week for releasing a copy of budget reductions under consideration for next year.
Benjamin HodgeBenjamin HodgeThe list of more than 50 items was given to the board of trustees recently during an executive session that was called under a personnel exemption in the Kansas Open Meeting Law.
Hodge’s release of the list to a reporter for Prime Buzz drew a sharp rebuke from Terry Calaway, the college’s president.
Here is Hodge’s response:
“Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.”– US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the 5-4 majority in the June 2007 decision FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, which declared unconstitutional a portion of the federal law known as “McCain-Feingold”
There is a law called the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA).
One premise for KOMA is that it is more important to protect citizens from government than it is to protect government from its citizens. If one side should be on the defensive, it should be government: Government should fear its citizens, not the other way around. Another premise for KOMA is that humans are flawed and easily corruptible; we are at our best when held accountable. (more…)
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.