IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF KANSAS
JOHNSON COUNTY COMMUNITY
COLLEGE, DR. CLARISSA CRAIG,
MS. JEANNE WALSH, MS. AMBER
DELPHIA, DR. MARILYN RHINEHART
and DR. DENNIS DAY,
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF KANSAS
JOHNSON COUNTY COMMUNITY
COLLEGE, DR. CLARISSA CRAIG,
MS. JEANNE WALSH, MS. AMBER
DELPHIA, DR. MARILYN RHINEHART
and DR. DENNIS DAY,
Sam Brownback cannot be taken seriously while ex-banker Lynn Mitchelson remains a campaign co-chair.
Some questions for future Kansas Governor Sam Brownback:
RedState readers, I can explain to you the national banking crisis, in three words: Meet Lynn Mitchelson.
For 15 years, the ex-banker Lynn Mitchelson has been one of seven at-large elected trustees at Johnson County Community College. In large part because he is now unelectable, Mitchelson will permanently retire from public office in 2011.
Mitchelson once had a reputation in Kansas City as someone who could “fix banks.” Troubled banks would hire him as a temporary CEO, and, in theory, he would bring them back to health. But now that his record in elected office is widely known, I’ll be surprised if he is ever again hired by a bank. Why? Because he is directly responsible for much of lawlessness, failed cover-ups, and retaliation that has become commonplace at JCCC. The only thing more embarrassing than the corruption in which Mitchelson has participated, is that he has been so unsuccessful at carrying it out. I did not properly understand the phrase “the cover-up is worse than the crime,” until I had witnessed first-hand Mitchelson at work. Time and time again, Mitchelson’s actions have brought national embarrassment to this college, the largest college in Kansas.
I had not planned on writing about Mitchelson’s work, but today I’ve learned that JCCC leaders have made malicious, baseless legal threats directly to the top conservative news organization RedCounty.com, where I have written in detail about JCCC’s culture of corruption.
Inexplicably, the once-thought-to-be-conservative Sam Brownback months ago made Mitchelson a key part of Brownback’s 2010 campaign for governor, even though Mitchelson’s public record was already well-known. Brownback campaign manager David Kensinger - who apparently is under the illusion that Brownback can literally do whatever he wants, and that Brownback then will automatically receive the enthusiastic support of conservatives – doesn’t want to talk about it.
In large part because of Brownback, the largest county in the state of Kansas has an activist as its top law enforcer. Due to in-name Republican Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe (left), whose office is charged with enforcing the rule of law in a county with a fifth of the state’s voters, the 30 or so local governments bodies that receive receive billions of tax dollars can now completely ignore the state open meetings law. During the Republican primary of 2008 for the Johnson County District Attorney’s office, Brownback unnecessarily decided to endorse Howe, a candidate with a blank slate, over a proven conservative who would have faced a tougher chance of winning the general election.
Did Brownback know that DA Howe would fail the voters? Probably not, but I don’t care. Brownback failed to properly vet this guy. Brownback took a calculated risk for political reasons, and lost the bet.
After Trustee Benjamin Hodge brought sunshine to the ongoing corruption at Johnson County Community College under President Terry Calaway — most recently, with regard to questions surrounding how truly competitive the “competitive bid” for legal services is — Calaway and elected Board Chair Shirley Brown-VanArsdale ran for cover Monday and cancelled tonight’s scheduled meeting.
JCCC has not once in 40 years performed a competitive bidding process for its main lawyer. Elected leaders VanArsdale and Lynn Mitchelson had pledged to bid out this contract, but it quickly became apparent that the two had no interest in putting first the interests of the public. (more…)
Ex-bank executive and JCCC leader Lynn Mitchelson was quoted in April by The Kansas City Star, saying:
“Everybody on this board and administration has been sensitive to the taxpayers this year.”
That turns out to be just one more example to add to the many times Mitchelson has willfully misled the public over the last 6 months.
JCCC Trustee Benjamin Hodge writes at RedCounty about his Sunday night comments on KCMO 710 AM, made to the listeners of the Kris Kobach show.
Mitchelson regularly attempts to convince the public that JCCC is responsible with taxpayer dollars, but since he joined the board, the real [amount of tax money] paid by Johnson County households has increased at TWICE the rate of inflation.
JCCC leaders refuse to reform the out-of-control spending at the college. They spend hundreds of thousands of tax dollars a year on unnecessary expenses, such as taxpayer-funded lobbying and the select support of their favorite area non-profits, including one that Lynn Mitchelson used to run. All the while, they are burdening Johnson County homeowners with high property taxes, and they are increasing the in-state tuition fees faster than they are increasing tuition charged to out-of-state students.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The JCCC Campus Ledger covers the continued cover-up and dishonesty by JCCC leaders Terry Calaway, Shirley Brown-VanArsdale, and Lynn Mitchelson, that began as a relatively small likely violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA). Here are facts made known in the Ledger that were previously unreported in a print publication:
Here is some recent commentary:
- Kaw and Border: “JCCC Intimidating Whistleblower Trustee”
- the JCCC Board of Trustees, where recently-defeated Trustee Ben Hodge has been ripped apart by his fellow board members and Steve Rose, simply for being what amounts to a whistleblower to “absolute power” tactics that often occur when a board is controlled nearly unanimously by one political party — in this case, the Johnson County Oligarchy.
- All Things Joco, Tracy Thomas
- Christopher Berger: “Who Watches the Watchmen?”
- What particularly disturbs me about this incident, however, is not the possible KOMA violation but the reaction of the officers of the board to it. After a long chain of attempts to silence Hodge, including the board’s attorney Mark Ferguson conducting a sham review of the incident and finding nothing there (though he didn’t bother mentioning his investigation to Hodge) they have now threatened a defamation lawsuit if he doesn’t shut. The suit itself would be specious; to support a claim of defamation, Ferguson would have to be able to prove false the charge of unethical behavior, something which seems absurd on its face, and prove that Hodge’s charges were intentionally and maliciously false. Whatever their problems with Hodge, Calaway’s and VanArsdale’s very public condemnation of his actions under a reasonable interpretation of the law in the face of their own failings leaves one wondering under what rubric they account their behavior in this matter as ethical, and this threatened lawsuit does nothing but further the point with its obvious speciousness.
Rather than this “above board” approach allowing everyone to cool down and move on, essentially Calaway, with presumably the full cooperation of the majority of the Board of Trustees, has decided to manufacture a crisis over what could have been a simple acknowledged mistake. (more…)
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.
The more you learn about this, the madder it will make you. The President of Johnson County Community College, Terry Calaway (I call him the New Chuck, because he is as much a lying, conniving weasel as was Chuck ‘The Groper’ Carlsen) is still persisting in his coverup of his CLEAR VIOLATION of the Ks. Open Meetings Act (KOMA).
Calaway (and his boy, the lazy attorney Mark Ferguson)have concocted a “Speak No Evil” coverup story, a wholly novel legal maneuver, claiming that if you hand out illegal materials ie proposed budget cuts, during a closed meeting, it’s OK “as long as you don’t SPEAK OUT LOUD about them!”
You know, it’s the cover-up that kills you. Just ask Bill Clinton.
Then two cohorts in crime, elected JCCC Trustees Lynn Mitchellson and Shirley Brown-VanArsdale, served as Calaway’s other two monkeys: Hear No Evil and See No Evil. They supported the coverup. They smeared Trustee Ben Hodge. And made up, completely made up, a story that HODGE broke confidence, when he shared the illegal document with Jim Sullinger, the Star reporter who diagnosed the document as a violation of KOMA.
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.
The area blog Kaw and Border on JCCC President Terry Calaway, Board Chair Shirley Brown-VanArsdale, and Vice chair Lynn Mitchelson:
Ben has worked very hard to bring transparency and openness to the JCCC Board of Trustees. Unfortunately, as Yael Abouhalkah (of all people) at the Kansas City Star recently editorialized, the JCCC Board and President (outside of Hodge) have been conducting meetings in secret in violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act. Ben didn’t like that and as a result, has been lableled a nuisance by Steve Rose. One would think that Steve Rose, whose name is synonymous with Johnson County’s long time suburban newspaper, the Johnson County Sun, would appreciate Ben’s efforts at upholding a state law that even The Star had to correct the college on, as Ben describes on RedCounty.com here.
Of course, JCCC President Calaway and the other 5 establishment board members have tried to come up with lame excuses for their secrecy, as described in this recent article in the Gardner News, that apparently KOMA doesn’t apply to written documents, just verbal communication. Right.
Not only that, they subsequently violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act back in November as well when four of the board members, a majority, wrote a letter to The Star discussing Ben’s claims in his own letter to The Star regarding the board’s possibility of raising the mill levy. Problem is, having four people sign a letter was a violation of KOMA as well. Ben discusses these issues at length here.
Just three months ago, by violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act, a majority of the JCCC Board of Trustees — including “experienced” college leaders Shirley Brown-VanArsdale and Lynn Mitchelson — made it clear to the entire Kansas City metro that they had absolutely no understanding of Kansas law. This week, the majority of board members made it abundantly clear that they have absolutely no interest in ever learning the law.
And a week ago, board Chair Shirley Brown-VanArsdale and JCCC President Terry Calaway, in an article in The Gardner News, unintentionally yet clearly stated that they think that open meetings laws only apply to verbal comments, and not also written and electronic communication. That is 100% incorrect. Here is Calaway, in reference to typed budget information that he inappropriately distributed to the JCCC Board during a closed meeting:
“We’re very careful about it, which was why there wasn’t any discussion about this material.”