Since the founding of Kansas as a state, our laws and in fact our Constitution are subservient to Federal laws and Constitution. Likewise Counties are subservient to the State, and Cities are subservient to the County. Why is it that we find so often that the Johnson County (JoCo) Government is nothing more than just an extension of one city, Overland Park (OP). One might ask does the JoCo Board of Commissioners (BOCC) represent the residents of JoCo or just it’s largest city? This romance is long standing and to the point of violating Kansas laws, you look, you decide.
During the 2007-2008 Overland Park annexation approved by the JoCo Board of Commissioners, I have identified not less than five violations of Kansas State laws. This posting will identify actual records produced during that time period and compare to relevent State laws.
As general reference the following documents are available in their entirity:
This annexation begins with a clear indication of collusion at the 8/23/07 BOCC weekly meeting. Item #7 on the agenda reads “Resolution No. 066-07. Consider setting an October 30, 2007, public hearing, pursuant to K. S. A. 12-521, regarding a petition that the city of Overland Park intends to file for the annexation of approximately 9,569 acres of land (approximately 15 square miles) into the city limits of Overland Park.”
Sounds innocent enough, why would I suggest collusion? The next lines in the recorded minutes read “Overland Park City Attorney Robert Watson appeared before the Board to present a petition to annex land into the city of Overland Park, a copy of which was filed with the clerk.” It took some planning for the BOCC to consider a resolution acknowledging receipt of the petition on the same day the petition was presented. But now read the resolution “The BOCC, being fully advised in the manner, and after thorough discussion and careful deliberation, upon a motion duly made, seconded and carried, adopted the following resolution to wit:” In a matter of minutes following presentation of the petition and without debate, the BOCC had suddenly yet thoroughly discussed and deliberated an issue that would change lives.
Public Hearing 10/30/07. By statutes, the Public Hearing is not time duration limited. It takes as long as necessary to complete all the requisites of the law. To accomodate this the BOCC is authorized to continue the Hearing to a future date as long as those in attendance are notified of the time, date and place for the continuation. Theoretically a Public Hearing could go on indefinately as long as properly continued each time and not adjourned. At the beginning of this Public Hearing the Chair stated “I’d also like to note that we have to vacate this facility at 10:30 this evening. So we will make every effort to move as quickly as possible through the City’s presentation and all of the registered speakers.” Through out the Public Hearing reminders of this artificial time limit were mentioned including at the end “This will be the last comment.” This created a very intimidating atmosphere to those in attendance.
By statutes, during the Public Hearing OP was required to present and discuss their plan for the extension of services to the proposed annexed area. BOCC attorney stated at the beginning of the hearing “The City of Overland Park, Kansas, has presented a petition to the Board of County Commissioners requesting the annexation of approximately 15 square miles of land. Pursuant to Kansas Statutes Annotated 12-521, the Board has scheduled a public hearing this evening to hear the City’s presentation of their plan of services to the proposed annexation area, and to receive public comments concerning the advisability of the proposed annexation.”
At no time during this Public Hearing did OP make any attempt to discuss their plan of services. The OP Mayor did state “The City has submitted an exhibit list to the Board’s Clerk for inclusion in the record. One of the exhibits is our errata sheet that corrects the supplements, and updates the information set forth in the City’s Service Plan based on new information concerning mill levies, assessed valuation, and recent executed fire services agreements between the City and Johnson County Fire District No. 2, and it also has some other matters in it, also.” In doing so the Mayor acknowleged that previous details provided by the City had changed.
- The statutes are quite clear (as was the BOCC attorney) in their language of “presenting the service plan” during the Public Hearing. They do not state “providing the service plan”.
- The statutes were written before the advent of internet access. Stating that the information has been updated on a website does not comply with the statutes. They were written specifically to require public discloser of all facts in a public forum.
- The purpose of the Public Hearing is not so that two governments can exchange documents back and forth in public, the purpose is so that the public can hear what’s on those documents. The city failed to do so and apparantly the county did not care.
The statutes are clear on defining the difference between a “continuation of” and “adjournment of” the Public Hearing. As stated earlier, the Public Hearing may be continued as long as the time, date and place is announced to those in attendance prior to the recess. Adjournment occurs simply by the Chair declaring adjournment. Another term used in the statutes is “sine die” which basically means without setting another date http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjournment_sine_die . This Public Hearing was affectively adjourned twice.
- During the final statements of the Hearing an attendee asked “At what meeting of the Board will the Board consider this issue?” BOCC responses included “I don’t believe we know that. We could do it at a regular meeting or a special meeting” and “We have not scheduled anything yet.” In the absence of setting a time, date and place for continuance, the Hearing was adjourned sine die.
- The Chair adjourned the Hearing at 10:44pm.
Once the Public Hearing was adjourned, the BOCC were required by statute to make a decision within seven days. They failed to do so. Procedings by default should have ended.
The BOCC referred several times to the Record staying open until 11/30/07. The life of the Record is directly tied to the life of the Public Hearing. The Record also closed on 10/30/07 and anything added to it after that date was done so illegally.
The BOCC apparently realizing their errors tried to unring the bell on 11/15/07 when BOCC Chief Counsel stated “by statute there was a timeframe within which the County had to act after the record was closed.” Resolution 086-07 extending the 11/30/07 date to 2/15/08 concluded with “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED by the Board that notice of this Resolution and continuance of the public hearing process shall be provided to the City and all interested persons who have requested such notice, shall be published in the official county newspaper and through special news releases, and shall be posted on the web site of the Board.” This is more than two weeks too late, the bell rang loud and clear on 10/30/07.
While looking at the last mega annexation by OP and that Public Hearing conducted by the BOCC on 3/26/02 it is worth noting two things:
- The very same BOCC personnel did properly recess and continue the Hearing per statutes.
- OP personnel again failed to discuss the Service Plan in Public Hearing forum.
I am in the process of scheduling a meeting with the District Attorney to discuss all of the above. Let’s test the validity of Home Rule Charter. Otherwise let’s move the JoCo government buildings to Overland Park.
“The rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted.” James Madison
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