An earthquake rolled through Lee’s Summit’s political landscape with the recall of District 4 Councilman Chris Moreno and charter amendments changing the powers of the mayor.
Voters said yes to every question on the ballot, all of the 12 charter revisions, the Moreno recall and extending a half-cent sales tax for 15 years. Voters also chose three new board of education members for the Lee’s Summit School District.
It was the first successful recall election in Lee’s Summit’s history. Only District 4 voters had that question on their ballot, and they voted 1,634 to 956 to push him out of office, with about 63 percent voting yes.
Mayor Randy Rhoads compared the sometimes ugly campaign and strained council member relations during the past year to a storm at sea. He said he hopes it is passing.
“Once the waves start to settle down, we can get back on track. That takes time,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads said Wednesday that he is checking with the city to verify when Moreno actually leaves office — whether it is immediately or once the council votes to accept the election results. He is also checking when a new charter provisions giving him a vote on every ordinance takes effect.
“We’re plowing new ground; we’ve never had a recall before,” Rhoads said.
Only voters in District 4 had opportunity to cast ballots with the recall question.
Moreno did not respond to a request for comment. He did post a farewell to his supporters on a Facebook page he set up as city councilman.
“While it is unfortunate that a campaign built on personal attacks prevailed, I am good with knowing that I lost standing for what I believe is right, rather than remaining silent for political expediency,” Moreno wrote.
In the post, he listed some of his accomplishments, including helping firefighters get a pay increase; fighting for approval of The Grove, a planned development along Missouri 291 South; and for pushing for investigation of city purchases.
He added that it’s time for his opponents to move on and the city to move forward, and that he intended to focus on his family and career.
Moreno’s critics made a months-long campaign that pointed to his bankruptcy, his political style — such as holding a press conference to influence Target’s bathroom policies related to transgender people — and said he led a witch hunt while demanding investigations of the city’s purchasing policies.
Another council member, Diane Forte, had violated state law by having her trophy business twice sell awards totaling more than $500 to the parks department without bidding out the purchases. Moreno pressed for Forte to resign as park board liaison and asked for more investigation into the situation. Forte resigned as liaison and admitted the violation, saying it was an error because she did not know of the law.
Moreno contended that much of the opposition was in retaliation for that battle.
The recall effort was spearheaded by Lee’s Summit Citizens for Responsible Government.
Rhoads said he would propose a schedule for selecting a new council member based on precedent from about 20 years ago when a vacancy occurred on the council because a member moved out of state.
At that time, the council took applications from residents interested in serving, conducted face-to-face interviews and then voted to appoint the new member.
He said he thinks the charter calls for Moreno’s replacement to serve until the next general municipal election in April, then that person could run for the rest of the term, which would be two years.
“We don’t have people in mind to serve on the council,” Rhoads said. “If people are interested, they can throw their hat in the ring.”
An applicant would have to meet requirements for a District 4 council member
Capital improvements sales tax
The sales tax passed easily, with a vote of 6,638 to 2,066.
The sales tax is projected to raise $100 million before it again sunsets and would pay for street, storm sewers and other projects the Lee’s Summit City Council had put on a projects list. The projects included work on major routes like Colbern Road and Third and Douglas streets.
Patrons of the Lee’s Summit School District chose three new board members: Kim Fritchie with 5,319 votes, Jacqueline Clark, 4,335 votes and Dennis Smith, 2,990. Also running were Mark Augustine, 797, Susan Coffman, 2,660, Mark Dziedzic, 676, Diego Gutierrez, 2,907, Michael McMenus, 706, Ryan Murdock, 2,377, Carl Quijas, 637 and Jill Worstell, 1,673
Lee’s Summit voters supported charter amendments, including those that gave the mayor a vote on every ordinance, but took away the mayor’s veto power.
Voters also decided on amendments that clarified language, responsibilities of the city manager or to conform to state law.
Question 2, approved by a vote of 6,039 to 2,481, returns the power to appoint the mayor pro tem to the mayor, instead of being a position elected by the council members. The mayor pro tem presides over meetings when the mayor is absent and appoints council committees, with confirmation of the council.
It also requires a wait of seven days before the first and final votes on an ordinance and gives the mayor a vote on every ordinance.
Question 3, by a vote of 6,067 to 2,461, adds a requirement that the council adopt an ethics code and allows the council to impose sanctions on a council member for violating the code.
Question 4, approved by 4,548 to 3,869, gives the mayor a vote on all ordinances, voting last on the council, but removed the mayor’s veto power.
Rhoads was unperturbed at being the prospect of voting on every issue.
“If I vote, I vote,” Rhoads said. “I voted for 12 years when I was a councilman.”