Commissioner expresses concern about letter

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

A Leavenworth County commissioner argued Wednesday that it is important her fellow commissioners make it clear when they are expressing their own opinions and not speaking for the entire County Commission.

Commissioner Vicky Kaaz mentioned a letter written by another commissioner, which included what she said had the appearance of a county letterhead.

Kaaz did not mention the author of the letter by name. But Commissioner Mike Stieben defended a letter he had written.

Stieben's letter addressed county recommendations versus mandates related to COVID-19 and the authority of school districts.

"In Leavenworth County School districts have authority to make their own regulations as mitigation efforts including masking rules," the letter states. "No school district should feel compelled to mandate masks as a rule from the county."

Stieben argued the letter stated school systems have the authority to make decisions for their schools.

"That's all the letter said," he said.

The letter, which was addressed to "dear friend" is not dated. But Stieben posted a photograph of the letter Aug. 23 on a Facebook page he maintains.

Kaaz said the letter resulted in emails and phone calls to commissioners.

She said commissioners can express opinions individually, but they do not reflect the County Commission as a whole.

Stieben said the letter indicates it came from his desk.

The letterhead for the letter includes a picture of the Leavenworth County Courthouse. Underneath the words "County of Leavenworth" is the statement "From the desk of Commissioner Mike Stieben." The letterhead also include an address, phone numbers and an email address for the County Commission.

Commission Chairman Mike Smith said he appreciated Kaaz's comments.

"We can't tell a county commissioner what to do," Smith said.

The chairman said a lot of people are viewing the letter as being the opinion of the entire commission. He said it was good that the matter was being discussed Wednesday.

"I think as far as that goes, we need to have that discussion," he said.

Stieben said he thought social media did not help the situation. He said it was good commissioners were talking about the issue.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR

In other business:

The Leavenworth County Commission:

• Approved a resolution to amend county zoning and subdivision regulations to add regulations for solar farms.

• Ratified approval of a 2022 special funds budget. Commissioners voted to approve this budget last week. But County Counselor David Van Parys said it was unclear from the minutes whether a motion was made before last week's vote.

Van Parys referred to the issue as a procedural matter.

• Approved an agreement with Leavenworth Excavating and Equipment Company regarding the company's operations at a county-owned quarry near Tonganoxie.

Commissioner Vicky Kaaz abstained from the vote because of a family connection to Leavenworth Excavating and Equipment Company. Kaaz said she and her immediate family members do not have an interest in the company, but she abstained to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

• Approved the renewal of a special use permit for Westland Construction to operate a contractor's yard at 20510 163rd St.

• Approved a the renewal of a special use permit for Schuetz Construction to operate a contractor's yard at 14883 142nd St.

• Approved the renewal of a special use permit for Dave's Construction to operate a contractor's yard at 18429 166th St.

• Approved a special use permit for Ledford Boat and RV storage to operate a business at 28910 207th St. The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Vicky Kaaz voting against it.

• Denied a special use permit for Dusselier Boat Storage to operate a business at 15829 174th St.

Only two commissioners, Jeff Culbertson and Mike Stieben, voted in favor of the special use permit. Commissioners then voted to return the request to the Leavenworth County Planning Commission for additional review. The vote was 3-2. Kaaz and Commission Chairman Mike Smith voted against the motion.