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Voters may not fill 3rd city seat

Staff writer

Three of the five seats on Marion City Council will be up for grabs this spring, but voters may get to fill only two of them.

Vice Mayor Chad Adkins, whose term will not expire for two years, said this week that he would be resigning at the end of the current school year to seek work in Texas.

He and his wife, Michelle Adkins, both teachers for Marion schools, submitted resignations from their teaching positions during Monday night’s school board meeting.

Although an election is scheduled for April, Adkins plans to stay on the council until he leaves after school ends.

“I’m not due for re-election, so I’ll resign and let the mayor appoint a replacement,” he said.

City administrator Roger Holter said Mayor Todd Heitschmidt would recruit candidates to fill Adkins’ seat.

“The mayor makes a recommendation for the appointment of an unexpired term, and the council votes on it,” Holter said, citing Kansas statutes 14-204 and 14-308.

However, the statutes he cited don’t specify that the mayor makes a recommendation. Rather, both statutes state: “Whenever a vacancy shall occur in the office of council member, the governing body shall appoint an elector of the ward where the vacancy occurs to be council member for the balance of the unexpired term.”

State law appears to make no provision that appointments to unexpired terms last only until the next election. Moreover, whether the statutes are binding in Marion is unclear. Both are invalidated by local Charter Ordinance No. 16 (14-01), which modifies the mayor-council form of government that Marion has adopted, among other things eliminating wards.

Holter said that if Adkins resigned from the council before the Jan. 26 filing deadline for two council seats whose terms expire this year, a special election might be called but he doubted whether there was time for county election officials to add another contests to the ballot.

Marion’s charter ordinance makes no reference to calling special elections. Moreover, the statutes invalidated locally by the charter ordinance state that any appointee to a council seat would fill the complete balance of any unexpired term, and thus would be appointed for two years. Another section of state law indicates that council appointments to fill other vacancies last only until after the next election, but its applicability is also unclear.

Asked to comment on the legalities involved, city attorney Susan Robson said she would have to research the matter further. County elections officer Tina Spencer was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Council member Jerry Kline, asked for comment, said he believed an earlier resignation from the council so Adkins’ replacement can be elected would be a better choice. He predicted that if Adkins’ seat ended up being appointed, the person appointed will be selected based on political leanings.

“They’re going to swing it their way,” Kline said.

Many council decisions end up being decided on a 4-1 vote, Kline said.

“If you don’t care about the school anymore, why would you care about the city?” Kline said. “It’s the same deal.”

Last modified Jan. 13, 2016

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