CLAY COUNTY — A nonbinding committee of 12 County Commission-appointed members has begun work to explore whether residents would be open to changing Clay County’s form of government.
The committee met for the first time earlier this month at the Northland Neighborhoods office at 4420 NE Chouteau Trafficway in Kansas City.
During the first meeting, members made Greg Canuteson, a former Liberty mayor and former Democratic state representative, chair of the committee.
The group decided to fast track work exploring whether citizens would be open to switching the county to a charter or constitutional form of government, saying it planned to meet publicly in evening hours in various areas of the county once per week over eight weeks on Wednesdays starting in January.
Input the group hopes to collect includes whether residents like the idea of changing to a charter form of government and how the government would operate, including whether some currently elected offices should move to commission appointments and how many commissioners should make up the County Commission.
Knowing attempts to move the county toward charter government have failed at the ballot box multiple times in the past, the group said it planned to create a pros and cons list of different types of government for residents.
As the committee is a quasi-governmental body, it is subject to the state’s open records law, meaning its records, meetings and communications are accessible by the public. Public notice of the group’s meetings will be posted at the facility where the group plans to meet and will be provided to area media outlets.
In November, county commissioners, by majority vote, approved creation of the committee as well as putting a question on the April 2020 ballot asking voters if a commission should be appointed by the circuit court to begin the process of crafting a charter form of government. If the ballot question passes and the formal commission is approved, the form of government it creates would still need to be approved by voters in a subsequent election.
The current exploratory committee is separate from the commission that would be created by the circuit court if approved by voters.
Current committee members said they want to be sure the public has a chance to weigh in and want Clay County citizens to know the group, while appointed by the three county commissioners, is not being led by them and that the group is gathering information in a nonpartisan fashion and that there is no forgone conclusion that citizens will want a change in the county’s form of government.
“Basically, what we are doing is gathering enough input on the thing and making sure people are and feel heard. Then, after the election, if the constitution commission is made, say, ‘Here is all the input we gathered from people on the thing and now you have to take it and run with it and create something,” said committee member Myron Neth.
The nonbinding committee of 12 members appointed by Clay County Commissioners are: Greg Canuteson, Kenneth Honeck, Myron Neth and Larry Whiton, appointed by Western Commissioner Gene Owen; Kay and Tom Pecca, Dee Rosenkrans and Troy Schulte, appointed by Eastern Commissioner Luann Ridgeway; and Jennifer Langston-Justus, David Slater, Jason Withington and Bennie Abbott, appointed by Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte.
The committee will meet next at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, at the Antioch branch of Mid-Continent Public Library, 6060 N. Chestnut Ave. in Gladstone.