Corbin H. Crable
[email protected]
Local and state politicians are keeping mum on their opinions of the upcoming March 2 recall election in which voters will decide whether John Shepherd and Mary Peters will retain their seats on the Gardner City Council.
If voters decide to oust Shepherd and Peters, Mayor Dave Drovetta would then appoint their replacements for the remainder of their terms. Shepherd’s term will end in 2011; Peters’ will expire in 2013. A successful recall election, then, would mean the majority of the council would be appointed by the mayor, as long as the appointments were approved by the remaining council members.
According to city code, “In case of a vacancy in the Council occurring by reason of resignation, death, or removal from office or from the City, the Mayor, by and with the advice and consent of the remaining Councilmembers, shall appoint a suitable elector to fill the vacancy until the next election for that office.”
According to an estimate by Shepherd, a recall election could cost the city an estimated $24,000.
Council member Todd Winters said he does not have a formal opinion on whether Shepherd and Peters should be removed from office; none of the other local or state officials offered their support or disagreement with the removal of the two, either.
Drovetta reiterated the stance he has taken several times when asked for his opinion on the subject of the recall.
“It is a process that is available to the electorate, and if it results in an election, that’s what we’ll have,” he said. “I hope the outcome will be that there will be more participation (in elections) at the local level.
“When people talk to me, I remind them that’s where they have the most influence, the most opportunity.”
State Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, said she, too, believes efforts such as the recall drive show the voices local citizens can have in interacting with their government.
“This process is very careful, and certain criteria must be met,” Brownlee said. “I believe the D.A. has reviewed that and ruled in the direction that the recall is valid. I think a recall does represent the fact that citizens can be very involved in their local government because it’s a tremendous amount of work. It brings into focus the role of a city councilperson and that their impact can be widely felt.”
Rep. Mike Kiegerl, a Republican whose district includes Olathe, Gardner and parts of Spring Hill, said he supports the rights of the citizens to seek a recall of elected officials only if the situation warrants it. He said he does not favor one side or another in this specific issue.
“I don’t generally favor recall elections. I think the people made their choice, and unless there’s a real serious issue, I would not favor it,” Kiegerl said. “Just because you disagree with someone’s decision doesn’t mean you recall them.”
Gardner City Council member Steve Hale said he the attempts to oust Shepherd and Peters are “unprecedented.”
“I also consider some of the actions taken by this council to be unprecedented, namely the surprising attempt to restrict the mayor’s authority and more importantly, the decision to rescind the logistical park contract with BNSF,” he said.
Hale added that he plans to vote March 2 and will “wait for the judge’s ruling and to see how John and Mary respond before divulging how I intend to vote.” He said he will “provide a detailed explanation” after the council members’ Jan. 22 court date with members of the Gardner Recall Committee.