Special to The Gardner News
The Edgerton City Council discussed a possible conflict of interest at their Jan. 13 meeting.
Josh Beem, city council member, said he wished to remove the consent agenda item for a Logistics Park application north of 187th street between Kill Creek Road and Waverly Road for 30.48 acres.
“I don’t want to be in a conflict of interest,” he said.
The final plat application is for the development of a cargo container storage facility. The land was originally annexed to Edgerton March 25, 2010.
Josie Stambaugh, council member, sent an email to Don Roberts, mayor, and Lee Hendricks, city attorney, with concerns Beem was currently residing in a Northpoint owned home causing a conflict of interest.
Hendricks said Beem has currently been living in a property owned by Northpoint subsidiary Hillsdale Land and Cattle on a one year lease, paid monthly.
“It is Josh’s call not the council’s call,” he said. “It’s for us to bring to public attention though.”
Hendricks said there is nothing written in city code and no penalties for conflict of interest under Edgerton City Code.
“Beem hasn’t received any benefits, and he’s always paid rent,” he said.
Hendricks read Kansas Statutes 75-4301a sections one through five and said only number three comes closest to applying since Beem has no interest in Hillsdale Cattle.
Section 3 states: if an individual or an individual’s spouse, either individually or collectively, has received in the preceding 12 months, without reasonable and valuable consideration, goods or services having an aggregate value of $500 or more from a business or combination of businesses, the individual has a substantial interest in that business or combination of businesses.
Hendricks said this is the key area that makes sense but was the agreement that occurred considered quid pro quo.
It is a normal lease with no benefits beyond Beem paying rent, he said.
Hendricks said five items determine substantial interest and he could only come up with one possible thing.
“If he is leasing and decides to sublet to another party that could trigger it,” he said. “But the lease has a no subleasing clause.”
Hendricks said Statutes 75-4304 and 75-4305 do not apply, and if there was a conflict of interest Statute 74-4306 states the violation is a class B misdemeanor.
“He has disclosed the information however and has no substantial interest,” he said.
Hendricks said he recommended Statute 75-4303a.
This statue states the governmental ethics commission shall render advisory opinions on the interpretation or application of K.S.A. 75-4301a, 75-4303a, 75-4304, 75-4305 and 75-4306, and amendments thereto. The opinions shall be rendered after receipt of a written request therefor by a local governmental officer or employee or by any person who has filed as a candidate for local office. Any person who requests and receives an advisory opinion and who acts in accords with its provisions shall be presumed to have complied with the provisions of the general conflict of interests law.
“This is Josh’s call on how he decides to vote,” Hendricks said. “I’d feel better if we received an advisory opinion to make it clear—to have a clear answer from the ethic committee.”
Stambaugh said she had reached out to the Ethics Committee Attorney himself and been instructed the Johnson County District Attorney deals with these matters himself.
“I know Josh is committed to Edgerton, but it’s concerning,” she said. “To me if you even think there’s a conflict of interest and voted it could cause more trouble and get you in trouble.”
Stambaugh said it looks bad, and Beem’s residence isn’t zoned for residential use.
Hendricks said he disagreed with Stambaugh on her district attorney statement and asked for the name of the person she spoke with at the Ethics Committee.
“They have to work within the bounds of Kansas Statutes and not send to the DA,” he said. “I find it hard to believe.”
Hendricks said judgement, regulation and penalty are not involved.
“These are the facts,” he said. “This is the final matter on substantial evidence, and it’s Josh’s call on what he wants to do.”
Hendricks said the property had been rezoned from agriculture to Logistics Park, and there had been multiple situations with property owners and a property rezoned one way and remained post zoning with residents in the property.
“If it’s a nonconforming prior use continuous for a year it’s not a violation,” he said. “If it weren’t it’s not a Josh can’t vote issue or in violation issue.”
Hendricks said if the property was in violation the property owner would be responsible.
“I know it has no bearing on his ability to vote,” he said.
Stambaugh said the house had been empty a long time before Beem moved in.
Don Roberts, mayor, said it was part of rezoning and would have had to be vacant for a year since Northpoint had taken it over.
Stambaugh said as an outsider and Edgerton resident she still had several questions.
“How did you come to that lease arrangement, is there a conflict of interest and do you know someone in Hillsdale Cattle,” she said.
Hendricks said Edgerton is a third class city with connections all over.
“Let’s make people who need to make that decision make it,” he said. “If an issue needs to be brought to life it’ll be dealt with.”
Roberts said he saw the Kansas Ethics Committee required to give an opinion.
“If they are wrong it’ll be sent to the DA and the opinion will be used by the DA,” he said. “Lee’s advice clears us from a city legal perspective—it’s all Josh.”
Hendricks said the city is protected but will reach out to the Kansas Ethics Committee if the item passed.
“He’s not regulated by us and can vote however he chooses going forward,” he said.
Beem said he decided to vote for the item since he wasn’t in conflict of interest. The item passed with Stambaugh dissenting.
In other business:
-A 2022 Citizen Survey through ETC Institute will be sent to Edgerton residents through mail, phone and online.
Beth Linn, city manager, said ETC was the most well known citizen survey company, and every citizen in Edgerton would receive one helping obtain information from people who are unable to attend city meetings.
Kara Banks, marketing and communications manager, said she had a high level of confidence it’ll be a true reflection of the community.
Banks said a new question on this year’s survey was for citizens to opt in for a chance to win a $500 Visa gift card funded by ETC.
Roberts, mayor, said he highly encouraged participation to help drive the city’s future goals and it was a useful tool to gage the overall community desire.
Clay Longanecker, council member, said it worked well in the past.
-an OnCall Master Services Agreement with Burns and McDonnell for OnCall Water and Wastewater Engineering Services passed.
“The service allows us to be more proactive than reactive,” Roberts said. “We’ve always had a good experience working with them, as they have extreme depth of knowledge that gives us lots of ability and expertise.”
-A month to month contract extension with Clements Cleaning Service for Janitorial Services to the city through March 31 passed.
A one year contract had been approved in November, but council had questions about the increase costs of cleaning supplies since 2012. A request for bid of janitorial services for 2022 was made.
Lee Hendricks, city attorney requested Clements provide a written 30 day termination of contract notice and the bid results will be presented to City Council before March 31.
Beth Linn, city manager, gave a Covid update on the city’s mitigation handling with the rise of cases in the county.
Stopping the spread with staff and limiting cross contamination was their main goal, she said.
“We hope to get on the other side of the surge,” she said.
Linn said the Mayor had issued executive orders cancelling a senior lunch and city town hall event with the Sheriff’s department.
“It’s a lean time, and we are working in relatively small close spaces,” she said. “Mitigation is important.”
Roberts said reports from the Kansas Department of Health and Education stated the new Omnicron variant was more contagious, and it was contributing to creating employment issues with a lack of people available to work.
“I want people to be safe and do what’s right,” he said. “We are close to stepping back to the old days, and we need to protect the ability to serve with our critical services at the time of need.”
Roberts said it was similar to the original onset in 2020 and the virus was moving through quickly.
“There is some speculation and I hope it falls off after six weeks,” he said. “Hopefully it is short and we can move on.”