Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
City Council members passed an ordinance at their Oct. 19 meeting updating standards of conduct for Gardner. The updates are for the Uniform Public Offense Code for Kansas Cities.
Amy Foster, business services manager, said the changes are for the adoption of the Kansas Tobacco 21 Legislation, criminal concealed carrying of a weapon by a person under the age of 21 with exceptions for military, police and jobs and the violation of a county health order.
Ryan Denk, city attorney, said they looked at other jurisdictions for consideration of criminalizing violations of the mask ordinance. He said the mask ordinance was an executive order by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly with exemptions to opt out by the counties.
“Johnson County Commissioners elected not to be exempt from the order,” Denk said. He said the mask order doesn’t meet the definition of health order by the county board and health officer. “It is a civil penalty for violation,” he said. “People have a lot of angst about criminality.”
Steve Shute, mayor, and Mark Baldwin, council member, said they would like to see Section 10.29 struck. Shute said he was leaning towards exemption.
Denk said health orders with other purposes are issued all the time.
Foster said the Tobacco 21 Legislation cites the violation on anyone who sells or supplies tobacco products including e-cigs and vap pens to minors. Any person under 21 is considered a minor, she said. “We can’t overwrite the law,” Foster said. “We are just following the state.”
Baldwin said he wanted to know why the city was adding language to the ordinance.
Foster said they weren’t adding any additional language. “Transparency is what this is about,” she said.
Denk said the Tobacco 21 Legislation is a Class B misdemeanor through state law with a fine.
Rich Melton, council member, asked if people were now considered a minor under the age of 21.
Baldwin pointed out Section 9.6 and said he didn’t understand why parents can’t control their own children and why the city was putting it on the police to enforce. Section 9.6 of the ordinance references penalties for violation of curfew with minors between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Foster said it was written to address old complaints of kids gathering in parking lots. “It was written as a means to control the situation,” she said.
Baldwin said it was a little broadly written and should have an exception for private property. “I think it is a bit of overreach by the government,” he said. “I get the old saying of nothing good happens after midnight, but there are other laws on the books.”
Melton said there should be an exception for work.
Jim Pruetting, city administrator, said the city had ongoing and consistent problems with this issue in 2016.
Tory Roberts, council member, said she wanted to clarify that the section of the ordinance was already on the books, and they were just debating why it was on the books and not making new changes.
Pruetting said the problem hasn’t been as evident this year because of COVID.
Baldwin said it had an umbrella feel to it, and he felt it unfairly punished responsible parents and children.
Denk said if minors are on public or private property without permission the city can cite it.
Shute said it started with kids hanging out in a parking lot because there aren’t enough activities for them.
Denk asked how often does a officer contact a property owner for consent and cite for this ordinance.
Captain Lee Krout, Gardner police, said he wished parents cared and that many times when GPD called parents his experience was the parents literally didn’t care. He said they are just looking for the owner’s consent most of the time and not every citation is complaint driven.
Krout said if a minor is walking that wouldn’t be cause alone for an officer to stop them. “It has to be something else with it when walking,” he said. “Or a call reporting something suspicious.”
Baldwin said it was overreach by government for parents being responsible and wanted to see it removed.
Todd Winters, council president, said it had to be discretion.
Krout said removing the ordinance would take that discretion away from the police department. “Are they just drinking milkshakes or planning a fight,” he said. “It’s taking away that discretion.”
Roberts said she was okay with the ordinance if the police department thought it was needed.
Winters said it gives the officers the opportunity to work like they are supposed to with their jobs.
Pruetting said if a judge sees the ordinance being abused they will step in. “They will look at the consistency of intent being enforced,” he said.