Vacant UG Commission seat on Thursday’s UG agenda

by Mary Rupert

The Unified Government on Thursday is scheduled to consider a method of filling the vacant UG Commission 1st District at-large seat.

After the commission selection process ended in a tie vote a little over a year ago, the seat has remained vacant. Several votes were taken that ended in a tie.

Commissioners on Thursday may consider a process that would select a commissioner from a list of applicants. However, the proposal as listed on the agenda would not allow Nathan Barnes and Don Budd Jr., the top two vote-getters at the last vote, to be selected. Fifteen other applicants who had submitted their names previously would be considered if they are still interested in the position, according to the proposed method outlined in the agenda.

If approved, the commission may vote on the vacant seat at a meeting at the end of August, according to the agenda.

Alvin Sykes, a human rights activist, said that if there is a plan to exclude any of the candidates, he is not in favor of it. If Barnes and Budd are excluded from the candidates, he would be in favor of continuing a lawsuit on the issue, he added.

He said he would not be against starting the entire process over, with the public allowed to apply for the position.

Commissioner Tarence Maddox sent his constituents a message earlier today about the possibility of the selection process opening again.

Bill Hurrelbrink, a spokesman for Mayor Mark Holland, said today that the mayor made the same motion last July (about a year ago) and there was no action by the commission then. Now that 13 months have passed and the commission has worked together well on two budgets, the mayor feels that they might be ready to try to vote again on the commission seat, Hurrelbrink said.

The vacant seat was the subject of a lawsuit filed by Carolyn Wyatt to try to get the seat filled. The lawsuit stated that Wyatt suffered a lack of representation because of the vacancy on the commission.

The lawsuit quotes the UG charter, which says the commission “shall” fill the seat, meaning it must fill the seat.

However, the UG charter did not say when the seat must be filled; neither did it describe a method of breaking a tie.

State Sen. David Haley last week said he wanted to call a meeting of Wyandotte County legislators, UG commissioners and the mayor in order to discuss filling the vacant position. If it is not filled, legislators may discuss a bill that might resolve it, such as a provision for breaking a tie vote.

Hurrelbrink said the lawsuit is scheduled to come before a judge in September.

“This is a good-faith effort to get it settled before then,” he said.

There has been some sentiment on the commission in the past to let the position wait until next spring to be filled in the election, Hurrelbrink added.

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