Work on tightening the recall process Lee’s Summit elected officials is underway, with a City Council subcommittee wrestling with ideas for limiting reasons for recalls.
City Attorney Teresa Williams offered some language, based on Kansas City’s charter, as a starting point.
Straightaway, the Rules Committee rejected one line that called for council members to decide whether the reason for recalling one of their colleagues is sufficient.
Council members Bob Johnson, Allan Gray and Derek Holland, meeting Sept. 5 to discuss the possible April ballot measure, agreed they didn’t like that idea and it wouldn’t pass muster with voters anyway. Amending the charter is a reaction to a recent recall effort against councilmember Rob Binney
The committee agreed on increasing the percentage of signatures in a district needed for a valid recall petition to 30 percent and tied to votes cast during a mayoral election.
Holland said that should result in the bar being higher, with about 1,000 signatures needed instead of a couple hundred.
Holland said he wondered whether the city should set other limits on reasons at all.
“The problem is we open a can of worms...” Holland said. “The number itself will give some protection.”
The language the committee looked at said: “Grounds for recall must relate to and affect the administration of the official’s office and be of a substantial nature directly affecting the rights and interest of the public. Such grounds are limited to objective reasons which reasonable people, regardless of political persuasion, could agree would render any officials performance ineffective, which must be an act of misfeasance, that is, improper performance of some act which may be lawfully done, or malfeasance, that is, the commission of some act wholly beyond the official’s authority, or nonfeasance, that is, the failure to perform a required duty. The remaining members of City Council shall determine the sufficiency of the grounds of the proposed recall.”
Holland said reading that he’d vote against the proposal himself.
At least the language should be more plain and specific, he said.
The committee talked about possible examples, such as a council member arrested for drunk driving. Holland said that raises the question of whether that’s just an accusation.
Gray said that he wants to at least craft a charter revision that would prevent a recall over a vote on a singe issue. “That hampers the council’s and city’s ability to make policy,” he said.
Gray suggested the recall should reference the office holder’s oath.
If they’re violating that, then that would be a reason for recall, he said.
“That’s the contract we have with the voting public,” Gray said.
Williams said the committee could come at the problem from a different direction by identifying actions that aren’t subject to a recall. Or specify problems that would be easy to ascertain, such as not attending meetings.
Holland said he thought it would be easy for petitioners to find a reason, even if the stated reason wasn’t the real motive.
The problem was unresolved and Johnson, committee chairman, asked city staff to look for more examples and ideas in other city charters for the committee to consider during its next meeting.