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Council addresses filling vacancies
At issue is replacing a ‘non-functioning member’
city council vacancies
The Great Bend City Council approved the 2024 budget when it met Tuesday night at City Hall.

What can the Great Bend City Council and mayor do if a member of the governing body fails to attend meetings? As of now, very little, but the council Monday night will consider an ordinance to remedy this.

“We’re just looking at what’s in the best interest of the city,” Mayor Cody Schmidt said. “We want to put something in play that protects the city and the council.”

The impetus behind the proposed ordinance is the repeated absence of Ward 4 Councilman Brock McPherson, officials said. Each of the city’s four wards has two council representatives, leaving Ward 4 with only one who attends meetings regularly, Natalie Towns.

Council members serve two-year terms and Towns is up for reelection Nov. 7. But, McPherson’s seat isn’t up for election until 2024.

“We have eight chairs up there for a reason,” Schmidt said.

Attempts by the Great Bend Tribune to contact McPherson for comments were unsuccessful.

Without a city ordinance, the process to replace a council member is governed by Kansas state statutes, Schmidt said. These require a recall election initiated by the residents of the ward in question, a lengthy procedure that can take months.

That is why this came up, he said.

The proposal

“The city currently has no clear definition of what creates a vacancy or any procedure to address the situation where a person is elected to a position on the governing body but fails or refuses to accept the office, take the oath and/or attend meetings,” according to the council agenda. “This either leaves a portion of the citizenry not fully represented or leaves the city with only the cumbersome and expensive statutory processes of ouster or a recall election.”

Addressing the issue will be City Attorney Allen Glendenning. The city’s legal team noted the city can pass an ordinance that allows for the replacement of non-qualifying or non-functioning members, which is much less cumbersome and expensive. 

They are recommending an ordinance be passed to allow the governing body to “promptly and efficiently replace a non-qualifying or non-functioning member.”

The proposed ordinance is broken down into four sections:

• Mayor. If a vacancy in the office of mayor occurs by reason of acceptance of an incompatible office, resignation, death, removal from office, removal from the city, failure or refusal to qualify or otherwise, the president of the council shall become mayor for the remainder of the unexpired term and a vacancy shall occur in the office of the council member becoming mayor.

•  Council members. If a vacancy in the council occurs by the same reasons, the mayor, by and with the advice and consent of the remaining council members, shall appoint a suitable elector from the ward in which the vacancy occurs to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term.

• Vacancy created by failure to timely qualify after election. If any person elected as mayor or council member fails or refuses to take and subscribe the required oath or affirmation, or otherwise neglects or refuses to qualify, within 30 days after election, such person shall be deemed to have refused to accept such office and a vacancy shall exist and shall be filled in accordance with this section.

• Vacancy created by failure to attend. If any person elected as mayor or council member fails to attend three consecutive regular meetings of the City Council without an excuse accepted by the governing body, such person shall be deemed to have resigned, and a vacancy shall exist and be filled in accordance with this section.