The Kansas Attorney General's Office has found that Leavenworth County commissioners violated the state's open meetings law earlier this year.
The Kansas Attorney General’s Office has found that Leavenworth County commissioners violated the state’s open meetings law earlier this year.
County Counselor David Van Parys, who advises the commissioners, acknowledged the findings Monday during a meeting of the County Commission.
Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt a consent order that had been proposed by the Attorney General’s Office to resolve the issue.
As a penalty, each of the three commissioners has been asked to complete at least one hour of training. Two of the commissioners, Dennis Bixby and Bob Holland, already have completed the training, but Commissioner Clyde Graeber still needs to take the training.
“We have roughly 90 days to do so,” Van Parys said.
He said the commissioners also have been asked to refrain from violating the Kansas open meetings law in the future.
Speaking after the meeting, Van Parys said the violations concerned actions taken during April 14 and 18 meetings.
Stephanie Cobb, who worked in the Leavenworth County Public Works Department, said she was terminated April 14 after commissioners met behind closed doors in executive session.
The law allows commissioners to meet in executive session for multiple reasons including discussion of personnel matters. But under the law, no binding action may be taken during an executive session.
Commissioners did not officially vote to approve Cobb’s termination until April 18, several days after Cobb said she had been fired.
Commissioners also voted April 18 to terminate former Public Works Director Mike Spickelmier.
Cobb’s husband, Clayton, later told commissioners that he had lodged a complaint against them with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office regarding violations of the open meetings law.
Van Parys said Monday that officials with the Attorney General’s Office felt the personnel actions should have been voted on during the April 14 meeting.
Van Parys said the Attorney General’s Office also found that commissioners had not properly worded motions to go into executive session.
The law requires motions to state the justification for going into executive session, the subjects that will be discussed and the time and place for returning to open session.
Van Parys said commissioners had combined two of the three distinctive steps required.
“We realized we were lax,” he said.
Van Parys said commissioners already have started following each of the steps. He said this practice began even before commissioners learned of the findings from the Attorney General’s Office.
The county counselor said the violations had not been intentional.
“They recognized it was not intentional,” he said of the Attorney General’s Office.
Clayton and Stephanie Cobb attended Monday’s meeting.
Clayton Cobb addressed commissioners during a period set aside for public comment. However, Holland, who serves as the commission chairman, said Cobb could not discuss the open meeting violations.
Clayton Cobb said he would skip over that portion of his comments. He accused commissioners of continuing to misuse their power. He accused commissioners of attacking people who stand up to them and question them.
Clayton Cobb also mentioned a possible recall election.
Following the meeting, Holland said he had attended a 90-minute training session about open meetings. During the training, a question was asked about the Leavenworth County Commission’s violations.
Holland said a person involved in the training did not seem to think the situation was a violation.
“They’re telling us one thing, but they’re doing something else,” he said.
The Leavenworth Times has requested a copy of the consent order. Van Parys said he is awaiting the return of a signed copy from the Attorney General’s Office.