Leavenworth County commissioners voted Monday to rescind a waiver of a conflict of interest with the county counselor and deputy counselor.

Leavenworth County commissioners voted Monday to rescind a waiver of a conflict of interest with the county counselor and deputy counselor.

Commissioners also voted to place County Counselor Mollie Hill and Deputy County Counselor Andrea Hughes on paid administrative leave.

Last month, an attorney hired by the County Commission filed a lawsuit in Leavenworth County District Court concerning the contracts of Hill, Hughes, Human Resources Director Tamara Copeland and Road and Bridge Superintendent Vincent Grier. The petition for a declaratory judgment is asking a judge to rule that the contracts are null and void.

The four contracts were approved by the County Commission in 2016. The makeup of the commission changed in January when Doug Smith replaced Dennis Bixby as the commissioner from the county’s 3rd District.

Smith, who serves as the commission chairman, and Commissioner Clyde Graeber, have been critical of provisions of the contracts. Commissioner Bob Holland has been supportive of the contracts.

After the lawsuit was filed, commissioners voted June 15 to waive the conflict of interest between the commission and Hill and Hughes. The waiver has allowed Hill and Hughes to continue to perform their duties with the county while the legal action is pending.

Smith, who voted against the waiver last month, said he wanted to revisit the issue Monday.

“I still think we have a conflict of interest,” he said.

Monday’s discussion came after attorneys for Hill and Hughes filed responses to the lawsuit last week in Leavenworth County District Court. Hill’s response included a counterclaim in which she seeks damages.

The counterclaim argues that Hill has suffered damages of $285,000 plus attorney fees, costs and expenses.

Smith made the motion Monday to rescind the waiver of the conflict of interest.

Holland said he does not “see anything that has changed” since commissioners voted to waive the conflict of interest.

Graeber provided a second to the motion. The motion was approved 2-1 with Holland voting against it.

With the waiver rescinded, Hughes asked commissioners to clarify her role with the county going forward.

Hill also asked for direction. She asked if commissioners wanted her to continue showing up for work.

Graeber said he would like to receive an opinion from legal counsel before answering the question. Graeber suggested commissioners could ask for legal advice from Scott Ryburn or David Van Parys. Ryburn is an outside attorney who has been assisting the commission with issues related to employment contracts including the pending lawsuit.

Van Parys is an attorney who has been contracted to help the county with legal issues related to road projects that were approved as part of an extension of a countywide sales tax. He previously served as the county counselor but was terminated from the position last year.

Smith made a motion to place Hill and Hughes on paid administrative leave.

Graeber said he has no problem with Hill and Hughes coming to work and doing their duties.

“But we just determined there is a conflict,” Smith said.

Graeber seconded the motion. The motion was approved 2-1 with Holland voting against it.

Holland said the county now will have to hire another attorney to provide legal services in the absence of Hill and Hughes.

County Administrator Mark Loughry asked that the commission provide an interim county counselor or identify an attorney they would like him to work with.

Smith said the county’s contract with Van Parys allows him to take on additional duties.

Holland argued that the commission would be taking Van Parys from his work on the road projects.

Holland also argued that it looks bad to bring back the attorney who previously was terminated from the job of county counselor.

Commissioners voted 2-1 to have Van Parys provide additional legal services for the county. Holland voted against the motion.

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