Council splits on committee appointments

rpulley@lsjournal.comJune 11, 2014 

City leaders had a brief tussle over committee appointments as the newly-elected council settles into office.

Councilman Allan Gray, in his role as mayor pro tem, at the June 5 meeting offered his nominations for committees. The appointments started on the consent agenda, where items are voted on without discussion and typically pass with ease. But members can ask for any of those item to be moved to the regular agenda, as it was in this instance.

District 1 Councilman Rob Binney said Gray’s choices had left some districts without representation and asked him to reconsider.

He noted that his district didn’t have representation on the Community and Economic Development Committee or the City Council Rules Committee, and that other districts were not represented on various committees.

“It’s imperative that each district be represented on a committee,” Binney said.

Binney had been on the CEDC but was left off this time, with Councilwoman Diane Seif appointed to replace him.

District 1 Councilwoman Diane Forte backed Binney’s concern.

She said that with the city having three bond issues that could impact economic development, the district should have a member on the CEDC. And District 2, she said, should have representation on the Public Works Committee.

Councilman Bob Johnson said when he first was elected to the council there was an unofficial tradition of including at least one member from a district on each committee. A few years ago that changed to trying to appoint members who had interest, background and knowledge appropriate for committees.

“That works better for the overall process than the very artificial concept of one person from a district per committee,” Johnson said. He said the previous system was a failure.

He said that any mayor pro tem would not be able to make everyone 100-percent happy.

“He’s got me on a couple of assignments I’d like to give back,” Johnson said.

Forte replied, “Now’s your chance ... I don’t think it’s artificial that 25,000 voters aren’t at the table for economic development.”

Gray said that he had asked for council member’s interests and resumes and tried to make the best matches to serve the city.

He said there was no written policy or requirement in the Lee’s Summit City Charter that a committee have at least one member from each district. He said council members should be looking at the broader needs of the city even when they are serving on committees. All ordinances come to the full council, he noted.

“Unless we’ve all abdicated our responsibilities ...” Gray said. “The council continues to have the final authority.”

Gray’s appointments prevailed with the council in a 5-3 vote, with Binney, Forte and Councilwoman Trish Carlyle voting no.

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