The Barton Community College Board of Trustees may not be able to appoint a replacement for trustee-elect Bob Mead, who died on May 4, as quickly as planned. Great Bend attorney Brock McPherson said that because he received the most votes after Mead in the April election, he should be the person who fills the post when it becomes vacant in July.
The topic was discussed Thursday at the board’s May study session. Mike Johnson, chairman of the board of trustees, first commented on Mead’s untimely passing.
“Bob was a very great individual. He would have been an outstanding trustee. His illness and death came on very quickly.”
There have been vacancies on the board before. The college checked with the board attorney and county clerk, and planned to follow the same procedure used in the past. Most recently, trustee Judy Murphy left the board in 2006 when she moved out of the area. The board published a public notice in the Great Bend Tribune, allowed people to express interest in the position, and then chose and appointed John Moshier to fill the vacancy. Moshier served for the remainder of Murphy’s term, and was later elected to subsequent terms. He is still on the board.
In this case, trustees elected in April will join the board in July. There were three seats up for election last April. Voters elected Mead, and re-elected Johnson and Mike Minton. Brett Middleton did not seek reelection, but he is still on the board until the end of June.
At Thursday’s study session, Johnson suggested a time frame that would allow the board to swear in Mead’s replacement in July, when Johnson and Minton take the oath of office.
“I’d like to approve the public notice in May,” he said. The next business meeting is May 28. Applications could be taken in June, applicants could attend the July study session and a decision could be made at the July business meeting.
However, McPherson asked to address the board Thursday, and suggested the plan was flawed.
“There is no vacancy,” he pointed out. “I should be taking Mr. Mead’s place. There shouldn’t have to be this notice.”
Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said the board’s plan was solid.
“I sought council on this,” he said. “It was based on what was done in 2006. The attorney felt it was still applicable. We conferred with the county clerk as well. She affirmed that the process was appropriate.”
McPherson said appointments made in the past were not applicable. In those cases, the board was filling vacancies left by people who had already been sworn in.
“I guess we will backtrack on our time frame,” Johnson said, noting more research may be needed.
The Great Bend Tribune checked with the Kansas Secretary of State’s Election Office on Friday. Bryan Caskey at that office said there is no provision in Kansas law for the person with the next highest number of votes to win an election in a scenario like this. Caskey did agree that there is no vacancy to fill at this time. In July, when the other trustees are sworn in, there will be a vacant position and then the board can follow the procedure outlined by state statute.