When a few citizens approached Lee’s Summit City Hall back in October about its intent to file a recall petition against a sitting council member, those paying attention to local politics took note.
We’ve seen this scenario play out before: a recall effort against then District 1 council member Kathy Hofmann failed at the polls almost a decade ago and a more recent – and more disorganized – effort against current District 1 Councilman Rob Binney failed in 2013.
The Lee’s Summit Citizens for Responsible Government seem to have at least two things on their side: cause for a recall (which was severely lacking if not absent in the Hofmann case) and vast community support (lacking in the Binney effort) witnessed by the collection of signatures in a relatively short amount of time.
So, what happens now and how does this affect city and government work in Lee’s Summit?
On Dec. 15, the City Council had in front of it an ordinance to set April 4, 2017 as the election date for the purpose of placing in front of residents of District 4 the question of recalling Chris Moreno.
What preceded that, per City Charter Section 10.3, was the signature of more than 600 (621 verified to be exact) residents of District 4 to a petition asking this recall appear on a ballot. The charter mandates that signatures of qualified voters for that office equal 30 percent of the total number of votes cast for the office in which he was elected (this past April).
The petition was verified by the Jackson County Election Board and then sent back to Lee’s Summit City Hall, where the City Clerk was charged with informing the citizen group and council members of the successful petition, thus triggering the ordinance for an election.
All the above is mandated by our City Charter – the Constitution of our city, if you will – and must be followed to the letter of the law. And for good reason, too.
Whether it’s Hofmann, Binney or Moreno, each went through a process to be elected and the threshold for recall must be adhered to. For Hofmann and Binney, the petitioners and organizers were both roundly rejected. Moreno’s case could have a different outcome given what has happened on City Council since he came on in April.
Last week at council round table, Moreno made another move in what has become known as a “slam motion” during a time when motions should not be made or heard.
His nearly four-minute, 400-word motion, essentially calling for a criminal investigation into every department in the city for a range of alleged offenses, was so convoluted and confusing, even Mayor Randy Rhoads couldn’t read it back.
After some awkward silence, it appeared the motion might die, but District 3 council member Phyllis Edson kept the motion alive with a second. It passed 4-2 with Binney and Craig Faith voting no.
Of course, a vote should have never been taken on what is going to essentially be a legal matter. This discussion belongs in closed session in order to get the legalities and details worked out.
And it all came on the same day as the citizen group presented its signature list to City Hall for the aforementioned recall of Moreno.
By its very nature, recalls of elected officials are nasty affairs that force citizens to point out weakness in elected officials. And sometimes, the opposite happens, too.
The next four months of council governance will require staunch leadership, firm decision-making and must leave politics and personal agendas at the door to move forward with vital city business.
Lee’s Summit resident John Beaudoin writes about city and civic issues, people and personalities around town. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.