February 9, 2016

Freeman appointed to city council

Heath Freeman

Danedri Thompson
Heath Freeman will replace Dennis Pugh on the Gardner City Council.
Council members, in a 3-1 vote, approved Mayor Dave Drovetta’s appointment to the council, but not before council member Larry Fotovich asked Freeman a number of questions.
Eight people ran for three seats on the council last April, Freeman was not among them, and Fotovich asked why.
“Timing has just opened up and it made this a little bit of an opportunity,” he said.
In an interview following the city council meeting, Freeman wouldn’t elaborate on what conditions changed between the April 2010 election and now to make the timing right for serving on the council.
“Those are personal things. There were just some personal things that during the last election that didn’t make the timing right,” he said.
The 36-year old graduated from Kansas State University in 1998 with a degree in graphic design and hales from Wellington, Kan. – a community south of Wichita. After college, he substitute taught and then moved to the Dallas, Texas to take a job with a small printing company there.
His wife is from Wellsville, but the pair met in Texas.
“Both of us are small town Kansas kids,” Freeman said.
They moved to Gardner in 2006, but Freeman wasn’t politically active. He registered to vote in Johnson County as an independent in 2004. However, he didn’t vote in September 2005 election that created a  countywide quarter-cent sales tax to be used for schools. He also did not vote in primary elections for city council in 2007 or in the general election in 2007 that elected members to the city council and to the school board.
He also didn’t cast a ballot in the 2009 city council elections – in either the primary or the general. That election, in April 2009, saw Mary Peters and Dan Thompson elected to the council and council member Dave Drovetta vaunted to the role of Mayor.
Freeman was, however, active in a campaign, which started immediately after the 2009 election, to recall Peters and council member John Shepherd.
Fotovich asked about Freeman’s participation in that campaign during Freeman’s first council meeting. He asked if Freeman could draw any parallels between the perceived Kansas Open Meetings Act that sparked the recall campaign and two violations of the current council last summer.
“I still think the way (former council members) went about it was a power play,” Freeman said. “I agree the D.A. said they did not violate the law. We can arugue back and forth, and we know where I fell into it. I don’t think you’re going to get the answer you want from me… I don’t think the most recent violations were a play for power.”
It was the contentious nature of the 2009 election that Freeman said sparked his interest in local politics.
“It was almost a partisan election and that seemed odd,” he said. “My interest level kept increasing and I found where I thought I could help.”
One way he’d like to help is by pitching Gardner’s attractive qualities to potential residents and business owners.
“They need to understand the value of proximity to the Kansas City metro,” Freeman said.
He sited the community’s direct highway access and home prices as benefits.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity to tackle some of our challenges,” he said. “I think I’ll be able to do some good and look forward to working with everyone.”
During the Jan. 17 council meeting, Fotovich also inquired about Freeman’s relationship to Gardner Bank, which he said has many development issues that come before the city. Freeman is the son-in-law of the bank’s vice president.
Freeman said he would vote on all issues keeping Gardner’s best interests at heart.
Council members Brian Broxterman, Kristina Harrison and Chris Morrow approved Freeman’s appointment. Fotovich voted against it.
Freeman marks Drovetta’s fifth appointment to the Gardner City Council since his election in 2009. He replaces council member Dennis Pugh, who resigned after being charged with battery and criminal deprivation of property. Pugh was elected in 2011, and Freeman will serve out the remainder of his term until 2015.


  1. Judith Rogers says:

    What turns a person who does not vote into one of the Beasley Bunch???? It doesn’t take much to figure it out, not even a “graphic” is needed………………..

  2. Judith Rogers says:

    This article tells you the KC Star gets it. What is most disturbing is that you have a Mayor and Council members voting to approve Mr. Freeman as a Council member when he states right up front he goes along with the KOMA violations. The standard is in the gutter in my opinion and no good will come from it for the citizens who pay the bills and suffers the adverse affects of people who operate in this manner – these comments are my opinion.


    Disappointing job by Howe in Gardner secrecy case
    Jan. 24
    The Kansas City Star opinion

    Johnson Countians recently got some disappointing news from Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.
    He is responsible for acting as the watchdog for taxpayers to make sure elected officials respect the Kansas Open Meetings Act, the law that helps Johnson Countians keep a close eye on the actions of local governments.
    Yet Howe let a warning letter suffice to Gardner officials who he said earlier this month violated the law twice last year.
    Howe told The Star, “We feel very strongly both were violations of the open meetings act,” referring to sepaarate private gatherings of the council in June and July of 2011.
    Unfortunately, the district attorney opted to limit his response to a letter to the mayor and City Council members telling them not to do it again.
    The letter apparently didn’t impress Mayor David Drovetta. He basically rejected Howe’s recent findings, saying, “I feel what was done was appropriate….”
    City Attorney Jim Hubbard could not be reached for comment, but he reportedly advised the council that the members could meet in private on the two occasions in 2011.
    It’s more encouraging that two new council members, Chris Morrow and Larry Fotovich, seem determined to make sure these mistakes don’t happen again. Good for them.
    The mayor said he and the council members escaped prosecution for their actions because they had attended a class on open meetings last September.
    Yet if Howe thought going easy on the mayor and council would send a message to them to get serious about obeying the law, it didn’t work. Consider that Drovetta just a few days ago was still defending the indefensible violations in 2011.
    The message from Howe was obviously not received by at least some on the Gardner City Council.

  3. No one hears you..... says:


  4. It's apparent says:

    after reading the editorial that some people outside of Gardner seem to have a lower tolerance for alleged law violations than some people inside Gardner. Seems some Gardner folks have become quite forgiving of this type of behavior, which is quite the departure from a few years ago.

  5. The Real Heath Freeman says:

    Found Heath’s youtube debut. Looks like he made good on his threat to bring back the intermodal or else.

    Is that Beasley cheering him on in the background?


  6. Recall and thou shall be granted a seat – God (er, Dave Drovetta).

  7. Chambermade says:

    Thanks for giving us a seat at the table Heath.

  8. George Adam Rifford IV says:

    I will say this…those who trust the “Falling Star” for legal review advice should probably limit their “legal opinions” in general.

  9. Enquiring minds want to know says:

    I would like to know which other Johnson County cities have more appointed city council members than elected members.

  10. Hypocrisy abounds says:

    Apparently Judith Rogers is against KOMA violations…at least when they don’t involve her own pet politicians.

    To hear her talk about our Mayor’s alleged KOMA “violations”…ones that the city’s legal council advised him were legal and acceptable…you’d think she would NEVER put herself in the position to condone even a HINT of KOMA badness.

    But then, we know she’s a hypocrite on that.

    She’s all about defending KOMA allegations against Peters, Shepherd, and Thomson. Says that, since they weren’t caught in the act, they must not have been guilty.

    Think about that for a moment…

    The TBG Three, abetted by Dennis Howard, made sure that the only witnesses to their actions were, effectively, themselves. Together, the four of them took direct actions that, at the VERY least, raised the question that they might have organized their actions together, out of the Council chambers. But by hiding those actions…forcing the DA to drag explanations out of them instead of offering open explanations to him, and to the citizens…they spoke VOLUMES about what they thought of openness and telling the truth.

    Yet, if Mayor Drovetta had showed up at a Council meeting with, say, a proposed ordinance outlawing electioneering by local newspapers, and if two Council members showed up with identical, signed ordinances; if he refused to acknowledge that it even APPEARED improper, Judith Rogers would probably have kittens, crying foul. She’d scream about secret meetings and the Dictator trying to take over the city and silence his critics and anything else she could think of. And she would be screaming loudest about KOMA violations.

    The best example of a hypocrite is one who, given identical situations, judges them differently based on their own biases. Judith was already a hypocrite when she shrugged off even the hint of impropriety of the TBG Three because she they represented what she wanted. She’s even more the hypocrite now that the DA has ruled against the Mayor and the opinion of the city’s legal counsel on the current KOMA violations because, by her oft-stated posts plainly say, it ain’t a KOMA violation if you don’t get caught.

  11. Appointment Fatigue says:

    Ties to the recall and a voting record heavy on not voting. Sigh. Another questionable appointment in my opinion. Time to start paying attention Gardner residents and time for me to start shopping for a new bank.

  12. @Appointment fatigue says:

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

    Take Back Gardner has striven to be the egg on Gardner’s face, daring the Mayor (and eventually the voters) to chicken out from paying enough attention to Gardner politics to elect officials who are interested in serving the whole community, not just their one-issue agenda.

    At the same time, the Mayor has egged on his opponents, including Take Back Gardner foes, into a mutual, win-at-all-costs game of chicken, both sides unflinchingly staring each other down over slights, real and perceived.

    If there is fatigue to be had, it’s not that there are too many appointments on the Council That’s like complaining about having a bad nose when you have a cold: a symptom, not the disease.

    Our fatiguing disease is our own apathy at standing aside and letting the extremists drive elections and city politics.

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