Speakers complain about petition verification process

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

When they met Wednesday, Leavenworth County commissioners listened to complaints about the county clerk's handling of a petition that sought the repeal of a local mask ordinance.

The petition, which was submitted in January, sought the repeal of a mask ordinance that was enacted in the city of Leavenworth by having the matter put before voters.

The County Clerk's Office reviewed the signatures on the petition to verify they were from people who are registered to vote in the city.

County Clerk Janet Klasinski determined the petition was invalid because it did not contain the necessary number of valid signatures.

The city of Leavenworth's mask ordinance has since been allowed to expire.

Three people who were involved in the petition addressed county commissioners Wednesday during a public comment period.

April Cromer said the people who collected signatures for the petition followed state law.

She said the people involved in the effort were told the petition to repeal city of Leavenworth's mask mandate required 695 signatures. They were told the petition was five signatures short of being valid.

Cromer disputed the findings of the County Clerk's Office and said the group responsible for the petition was denied due process.

Cromer argued the signature verification process that was used is the same one used for mail-in ballots.

"Every voter in Leavenworth County should be worried about this," Cromer said.

Kirsten Workman said the validity of a signature or vote should not be decided by one person who exercises zero transparency, accountability or basic standards of documentation.

Mac McCowen also addressed commissioners about the issue.

County Commission Chairman Mike Smith said at one point he would not allow speakers to attack an individual. The speakers never used Klasinski's name but they frequently mentioned her position as county clerk.

The county clerk is an elected position.

When contacted after the meeting, Klasinski said she followed state law as closely as possible when her office checked the signatures on the petition.

Klasinski said the process for verifying signatures for mail-in ballots is different. She said her staff can refer to the request form for a mail-in ballot if they are unsure about a signature. They also can call a voter to verify a signature.

Klasinski said county commissioners, acting as the Board of County Canvassers, make the final decision regarding questions about ballots following an election.

Following Wednesday's meeting, Smith said he did not intend to take any action as County Commission chairman in response to the comments from the speakers.

Smith said he spoke with the speakers after the meeting and suggested they contact their state legislators about making changes to the process that is used to verify petitions.

In other business

The Leavenworth County Commission:

• Approved a bid from Paritrave Innovations, Overland Park, in the amount of $190,000 for a remodeling project at the former Juvenile Detention Center.

The Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office closed the county's Juvenile Detention Center earlier this year. Juvenile offenders from Leavenworth County are now housed at a facility in Wyandotte County.

Aaron Yoakam, buildings and grounds director for Leavenworth County, said the former JDC building is being converted for use by the Community Corrections department.

• Approved the purchase of a high-fidelity training manikin from Gaumard for $62,542. The manikin will be used by Leavenworth County EMS.

• Approved a resolution to adopt amendments to county zoning and subdivision regulations regarding access management and cross access easements.

• Approved the replacement of a yield sign at 219th Street and Kissinger Road with a stop sign.