October 23, 2014

OPINION: Was proper public notice provided to Edgerton residents?

Some Edgerton residents say they weren’t given proper notice regarding a proposed asphalt/concrete plant to be built at 20125 Sunflower Road.
They might be right. We’ve had concerns about the legality of the county’s official newspaper for at least a year; in fact, we filed a formal protest this spring.
County staff admitted to residents during a May 28 meeting that the conditional-use permit notice had been published in The Olathe News, an entity owned by a Missouri based corporation – The Kansas City Star. The Olathe News did not comply with minimum bid requirements when the county opened bids last spring, and earlier this year, commissioners voted 3-2 to reject a formal protest from The Gardner News and Shawnee Dispatch, who argued that neither The Star nor The Olathe News met the requirements set out by state law to serve as a legal publication.
The issue at hand was competing bids for about $200,000 worth of annual legal advertisements, now going to an out-of-state corporation. The county purchasing department does not prioritize local business as a matter of policy.
The Olathe News has an office front in Lenexa but did not have a U.S. Postal Service periodical postage permit, as required.
The Olathe News applied for a permit after The Gardner News publisher told commissioners and county staff that The Olathe News did not meet minimum bid requirements, was not a recognized newspaper by the Kansas Press Association and was not a registered entity with the Kansas Secretary of State’s office prior to the bid deadline.
However, county officials favored The Star/Olathe News bid. They said their decision was based on price and on circulation. The Star entity has a circulation of about 72,000 in Johnson County, while The Gardner News and The Dispatch have a combined hard copy circulation of about 27,500. A large number of copies of The Olathe News are distributed as an insert of the Saturday edition of The Star, which is not considered as part of The Olathe News circulation, thought to be about 200.
The purpose of publishing legal notices – bids, annexations, zoning changes, etc. – is to notify of the public of what’s going on around them, so they can be informed and have input.
In this case, it apparently didn’t happen, and we predict it won’t be the last time.
The state statute requirements for providing public notice have been in place a long time; and there is a good reason – accountability to taxpayers and the free-flow of information.
By circumventing statute and exploiting “grey areas” the county commission – or any government entity – ultimately hurts the taxpayers it serves. They control information.
The question here is not whether there should be an asphalt/concrete plant in Edgerton. Lack of published information is a symptom of a bigger problem – not properly informing the public and not complying with state statute.
Taxpayers are held accountable to laws; elected officials should be no different.
Residents will have an opportunity to make their voices heard at the July 3 county commission meeting, but they should also be encouraged to write or call their county commissioner John Toplikar prior to the meeting. He was one of the few commissioners to actually  listen to our protest and who understood the importance of keeping the public informed.
Public notice is an abstract issue – until you find out they are putting an asphalt plant (or whatever) in your back yard.
Good luck.
Our protest fell on deaf ears, and state statute was circumvented for political favor.

Comments

  1. Judith Rogers says:

    One thing citizens better do is getting the ability of voting for ALL SEVEN MEMBERS OF THE JO. CO. COMMISSION. Now citizens can only vote for two individuals on that commission – citizens have no power with only two votes. You can never hold ALL Commissioners accountable because you do not have the power of your vote. And citizens better start scrutinizing closely the appointees to boards, commissions, etc. at the city, county and state levels because those appointees can cause you some nightmares also – remember they are picked by the very politicians who have lost their moral values long, long ago – that is if they ever had them. One of the most flagrant appointees that comes to my mind is the joker Brownback got appointed as the Inspector General over the Kan-Care program – that could very well turn out to be the mess we have now with the VA – I am sure he will be writing reports to glorify Kan-Care rather than protecting the poor people under that program.

    Until citizens start to review every single County Commissioner and City Council Meeting agenda every week and you have some clue as to what is going on in your backyard, you will never be in a position to take the action you need to take. And the second part of that statement is the most important – TAKE ACTION. How many citizens are willing to take the time to do those two things, be informed and take action? It is getting to the point where you could count them on one hand.

    There is so much moral corruption and plain ole corruption within our government entities, you will continue to suffer the adverse affects and high costs if citizens do not do their jobs. Citizen oversight and regulation is a necessity but certainly not in effect within our society and you see what you get from the lack of it.

  2. Judith Rogers says:

    My comments above referred to the person appointed to be the Inspector General for KanCare which was certainly questionable. Well, taxpayers paid him $77,000 per year to see if he could do the job and now evidently he didn’t think he could handle it and has resigned or perhaps there were other reasons for that resignation. To me that appointment was definitely a POLITICAL APPOINTMENT. Wonder what the next joker will be like?

    ***********************************************************************************************************

    Kancare inspector general resigns amid questions about his appointment

    By Bryan Lowry

    The Wichita Eagle

    06/07/2014 4:17 PM

    06/07/2014 5:33 PM

    The state’s appointed inspector general for KanCare resigned Friday amid questions about his qualifications and concern about his ability to serve without being confirmed.

    Phil Hermanson, a former state representative from Wichita, was appointed to the post by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in late April. The department did not officially announce the appointment.

    The inspector general serves as a watchdog over the state’s privatized Medicaid program, performing investigations and ensuring accountability of the $3 billion KanCare.

    Democrats questioned Hermanson’s qualifications for the job and pointed to financial issues and a DUI in his past.

    And the health and environment department said earlier this week that Hermanson was not legally allowed to serve in his position because he had not yet been confirmed by the Senate. Lawmakers did not take up the issue before adjourning in early May and do not reconvene until January. A committee could have granted temporary confirmation until then.

    The health and environment department had said Hermanson was serving as “acting” inspector general pending his confirmation. He was not exercising any of the power of the job but was receiving his full salary, which is $77,000 annually.

    “He’s been focused on obtaining the knowledge needed to properly exercise the duties of inspector general following committee approval,” department spokeswoman Sara Belfry said in a phone call several hours before his resignation.

    Belfry sent a brief e-mail to The Eagle late Friday afternoon that said: “As of this afternoon, Phil Hermanson has resigned from his position with KDHE effective immediately.”

    Belfry would not offer more details, and Hermanson would not comment when reached by phone.

    The Topeka Capital-Journal first reported concerns about Hermanson’s qualifications and lack of confirmation.

    Democrats had questioned the unusual way the appointment was handled.

    “I think it’s an absolute waste of taxpayer money if you’re paying him a $77,000 a year job for not doing his job,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat. “It’s very unusual that they appoint a guy to a job and they don’t pursue a confirmation by the Senate.”

    Hensley theorized Friday afternoon that Republicans did not want to hold a confirmation hearing. He questioned the choice of the Wichita Republican for the post when he does not have a background in insurance or law.

    He also pointed to Hermanson’s legal and financial troubles.

    Hermanson filed for bankruptcy in 1998 and was hit with a warrant for unpaid income taxes in 2009. He also pleaded no contest to driving under the influence after a traffic accident in Wichita in 2009.

    “This is a bizarre appointment to say the least — because he has no qualifications to do this job, I mean, none that I can think of,” Hensley said.

    Belfry had defended the appointment earlier in the day, saying that Hermanson had the ability “to gain that specialized knowledge.”

    “Phil has had issues in his past that he has acknowledged and tried to correct the best that he can and tried to move forward from,” she said then. “We look forward to Phil going through the confirmation, and he has a good amount of knowledge because of his service on the Health and Human Services committee.”

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