Irony, thy name is Gardner.
Larry Fotovich, council member, is being called upon by some residents to step down from office because they believe he has moved from the area.
Ironically, in April 2013, Fotovich supported the repeal or amendment of Charter Ordinance No. 19, an ordinance that chartered the city out of state statutes for elected bodies. That statute, K.S.A. 14-204 has more stringent residency requirements than the ordinance the city adopted in 2002.
The city’s ordinance allows Fotovich to stay in office as long as he is a “qualified elector.” For the record, Fotovich said he still occupies his Gardner home and is well within the law by remaining on the city council. He has purchased a home elsewhere.
We fear some residents, in their haste to unleash drama and stir discontent, are stalking Fotovich, and they should note the legality of their actions. We also remind them that the Fotovich family includes children.
Residents have started a Facebook page and petition calling for Fotovich to step down.
Charter Ordinance 19 has been the object of council discussion for years. And – in fact – it was a leading campaign issue for Mayor Chris Morrow. However, it hasn’t happened.
After several meetings in Spring 2013, Morrow said he hoped to have the ordinance amended and changed within the next three or four months. But Charter Ordinance 19 remains.
Charter Ordinance #19, amended in 2002, chartered the city out of having council elections in separate wards, created an appointment process that allows the mayor to make council appointments, and adopted a four-person quorum in order to conduct business. Repealing the ordinance would mean state statute would govern the city’s elections and appointments. State statute only requires three council members for a quorum, and allows the governing body to make appointments to the council.
When council chartered out of the state statute, the council appeared to agree changing a statutory procedure that requires the council to write a statement calling an applicant “unfit” if they wanted to deny a mayoral appointment. However, they did not appear to reach a consensus on increasing the number of council members, changing the appointment process, or adopting a ward system; however, there was no discussion on amending the term ‘qualified elector” to be more in line with state statute, which has a more defined determination of residence than current city ordinance.
Repealing 19 would also change the way appointments would be made to vacant council seats. Currently, the mayor appoints and the council approves. A 2008 state statute, however, created a new set of challenges for the council in the appointment process. In order to disapprove of a mayoral appointment, the council would be required to write a statement saying why the candidate is unfit for office. If the council simply declines to vote on a candidate for an appointment, the candidate is automatically seated after 45 days.
Charter Ordinance #19 is another example of the “law of unintended consequences.”
By trying to correct one problem; others were created.
Ideally, we would like to see the city council immediately repeal Charter Ordinance 19, and between now and the next election, the city should begin the process to comply with statutes that govern Kansas cities of the first class, which by definition have a population of more than 20,000 residents. (In the 2010 U.S. Census, Gardner residents numbered more than 19,000.) The council should work to create a ward system, set requirements for council eligibility and allow council members – not just the mayor – a greater say in how council vacancies are filled.
And residents, rather than stirring the flames of controversy, should concentrate on changing poorly considered charter ordinances.
Ironically, Charter Ordinance 19 is again scheduled for council discussion May 5.