Archive for Monday, November 14, 2011

New recall petition targets Basehor mayor; group alleges misuse of public funds

Basehor Mayor Terry Hill gives an update on city government developments during his State of the City address at the Basehor Chamber of Commerce meeting Jan. 27 at Community National Bank in Basehor.

Basehor Mayor Terry Hill gives an update on city government developments during his State of the City address at the Basehor Chamber of Commerce meeting Jan. 27 at Community National Bank in Basehor.

November 14, 2011, 5:20 p.m.

Updated: November 16, 2011, 5:50 p.m.

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Related document

Another recall petition is hitting the streets of Basehor, this one calling to remove Basehor Mayor Terry Hill from office.

The Basehor residents who created the petition allege that Hill committed misuse of public funds by using a city credit card to purchase more than $400 worth of goods that were delivered to his home, revising former city administrator Mark Loughry's contract to provide additional benefits and authorizing a $50,000 severance check to Loughry without approval from the Basehor City Council.

In a phone interview with the Sentinel on Tuesday, Hill denied any wrongdoing.

“All of those things fall under what I call exercising my responsibility to the city,” said Hill, who was elected mayor in 2009 after two years on the city council.

Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson late last week approved the petition to be circulated, County Clerk Janet Klasinski said Monday.

A group of three Basehor residents — Marilyn Townsend, Elaine Bundy and Bob Moore — submitted the proposed petition to the county Wednesday, Nov. 7, Klasinski said.

The petition to recall Hill follows an effort to recall Basehor City Council members Dennis Mertz and Iris Dysart, which was launched late last month by a different group of Basehor residents.

To prompt a recall election for Hill, the petitioners will need 190 signatures from Basehor residents who support the effort, Klasinski said. They will have until early February to do so. The petitions to recall Mertz and Dysart will require 124 and 193 signatures, respectively.

Townsend, who has lived in Basehor since 2008, said she began the effort to recall Hill on her own. She met with Klasinski in September to discuss the procedures for recalling elected officials, she said, but decided against it when she learned the city would need to pay for a recall election. After she learned of the possible election to recall Mertz and Dysart, she said, she knew she could push to recall Hill with little additional cost to the city.

Townsend said she had spent “many, many hours” researching in order to present the necessary grounds to recall Hill.

“It wasn't a lark,” Townsend said. “It's been a lot of time.”

She said she submitted the petition because she didn't think Hill had shown enough care with taxpayers' money.

“I am a person who believes that taxpayer money should be spent wisely,” Townsend said, “and people who make those decisions should think of us at all times.”

QUESTIONING PURCHASES

The recall petition accuses Hill of misuse of public funds, saying he purchased a $157 coffee maker and a $268 photo scanner with his city credit card, in violation of the city's purchasing policy at that time, and had them delivered to his home in Basehor.

Townsend said she learned of those purchases through a request for purchase records from Hill's city credit card.

Hill told the Sentinel that the scanner and coffee maker were for use in his office at Basehor City Hall. He had them sent to his home, he said, because his personal account on Amazon.com included a membership to the site’s Amazon Prime program, which allowed for discounts on shipping.

“They are, and have always been, in my mayor office,” Hill said.

He said he had done the same with other goods used for city business, including parts for his city-issued car.

The recall petition alleges that Hill did not have the authority to make any purchases with his city card between Sept. 21, 2009, and June 21, 2010, when a previous city purchasing policy was in effect. That policy did not specifically grant the mayor any purchasing authority; the current policy, adopted in June 2010, gives the mayor the power to make purchases worth $500 or less.

Hill said he was not aware at the time he made those purchases that the city’s policy did not give him any buying authority, which he said was the result of an inadvertent error. The council corrected that error by adopting the new policy in June, he said.

“It really didn't seem to be an issue with anybody,” Hill said.

Kim Winn, deputy director of the League of Kansas Municipalities, said that violating a local purchasing policy would not likely qualify as misuse of public funds, though using city funds to purchase goods for personal use would. Under state law, misuse of public funds in an amount of less than $1,000 is a class A misdemeanor.

Also supporting its claims of misuse of public funds, the recall petition says Hill used his city card to purchase food multiple times near his office in Fairway, where he works as an information technology director.

Hill said he often had lunch with city council members, job candidates, developers and other people in connection with his duties as mayor, and such lunches occasionally took place near his office in Johnson County if he did not have time to drive closer to Basehor during his lunchtime. He never used his city card just to buy food for himself, he said.

OTHER ACCUSATIONS

The recall petition also accused Hill of misuse of public funds in revising Loughry's contract to provide for full payment of his family's health insurance premiums, and in authorizing a severance payment for Loughry more than $50,000 without a city council vote, in early October.

In past interviews with the Sentinel, Hill has said that his handwritten addendum to Loughry's contract was not a revision but a clarification reflecting the original intent of the city council, and that he was obligated by Loughry's contract to authorize his severance payment in time for the city's next pay period.

On Tuesday, Hill told the Sentinel that city attorney Shannon Marcano had told him the severance check did not require council approval because the council had already approved Loughry's contract, which spelled out his severance package. He said withholding the severance — which the council voted to do before the payment went through — could put the city at risk for a lawsuit.

Townsend said she did not buy that argument.

“The contract was altered,” she said, “so it was no longer valid, as far as I’m concerned.”

The petition also alleges that part of Loughry’s severance paid him for vacation days that he had already used. Townsend said someone with knowledge of the situation had told her that had happened, but she could not remember whom.

Hill said that claim was not true, and he had directed city staff to pay Loughry for vacation time that he had accrued but not used.

The other accusation in the petition is that Hill fell short in a duty to attend all city council meetings, citing an instance in April 2010 when Hill ripped off his shirt and left a meeting after the council voted against his appointment for the city clerk position.

Hill said he remembered that he threw his City of Basehor shirt on the floor and “left the meeting in disgust,” but he apologized for his outburst at the next council meeting.

Townsend said she had compiled a list of about 10 city council regular meetings, work sessions and special meetings from which Hill had been absent since becoming mayor, during 2009, 2010 and 2011.

The petition cited a state law that says the mayor “shall preside at all meetings of the city council.”

But Winn, of the League of Kansas Municipalities, said that law did not serve as a requirement for a mayor; rather, it grants authority to the mayor. Missing a handful of city council meetings would not qualify as grounds for recall, Winn said. State law even allows for mayors to miss meetings, she said, by creating the position of city council president to fill in for the mayor in the case of absence.

WHAT NOW?

Should more than one of the three Basehor recall petitions attract enough signatures for an election, Klasinski said she hoped to have a single election for Basehor residents with multiple recalls on the ballot. The recall of each official would go to a majority vote.

“I'd like to save the city a little bit of money,” Klasinski said.

The city of Basehor will foot the bill for any recall election, Klasinski said. She guessed that the cost of an election would be between $3,500 and $4,500, depending on how many officials appear on the ballot.

According to state law, if the mayor were recalled, he would be replaced by the city council president. Mertz, the current council president, is also the subject of a recall petition.

Winn said that if the mayor and council president were removed at the same time, the remaining members of the council would appoint one of themselves as council president, and that person would immediately become mayor. The new mayor, then, would appoint new council members to fill any vacancies, and the council would vote to approve those appointments.

Townsend said the recall group had already begun to collect signatures for the petition by going door-to-door. Trudy Stonacek, a member of the group attempting to recall Mertz and Dysart, said her committee had begun gathering signatures, as well.

Comments

KSman57 3 years, 1 month ago

Where do we sign these petitions? I've got my pen ready!

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BasehorRecall 3 years, 1 month ago

Wrong elected official targeted for recall here. Mertz and Dysart obviously got there friends to go after the mayor. My question is who actually wrote the read petition Jim or Dennis, probably both.

Want to find out why people are the target of a recall checkout. http://www.basehor-recall.com

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KSman57 3 years, 1 month ago

All of the current elected officials should be targeted for recall. The council and mayor have clearly picked teams and are now incapable of making rational decisions for Basehor as a group.

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softballmom365 3 years ago

BasehorRecall--you are right! Mertz wants to be mayor and he does have his friends going after the mayor. Bob Moore is a good friend of Mertz's and although she is not one of the three listed as starting the petition, Mertz's sister is one of the people who is going door to door trying to get people to sign the petition. Her last name is different than his, convenient for him, huh. People seriously need to think about allowing him to get in the mayor's seat.

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johninbasehor 3 years, 1 month ago

My objection to Dysart and Mertz are the fact that they voted to spend $1,200,000.00 on the Wolf Creek Parkway extension from 155th to 158th st. There is only one building on the existing parkway, and it is vacant. Why are we spending this huge amount of taxpayers money for a road that will, in all probability, not be used in our lifetime? When the existing roads in Basehor need repair and in many cases aren't even paved, why are we wasting this money?

Why would our council members involved in this recall, go about slandering a former employee, accusing him openly in the media, of being a thief and a crook, when he has not been convicted or even charged in a crime, thus opening the city to a possible costly law suit? Why would our council violate a signed contract and not pay an employee's severance pay or give that person a chance to defend themselves as stated in that contract?

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merickson 3 years, 1 month ago

jgreen1515,

A quick correction: Dysart actually voted against accepting the $1 million KDOT grant to extend Wolf Creek Parkway and said she opposed the project. Fred Box also voted against accepting the grant, and Mertz, David Breuer and Travis Miles voted to accept it.

Story here from June: http://www.basehorinfo.com/news/2011/...

Matt Erickson Sentinel staff writer

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johninbasehor 3 years, 1 month ago

My apology, I was not informed of that.

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KSman57 3 years, 1 month ago

JGREEN1515: I also object to the ridiculous $1.2M "Road to Nothing" project, but I also object to Mayor Hill approving a $50K payout to Loughry while an investigation is taking place. This council and mayor continue to waste our money for us. Clean house and start over.

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Dennis Mertz 3 years, 1 month ago

BasehorRecall: I am not sure what anyone will get out of making false statements on a webpage will do for you. You might want to get hard facts and dates correct before publishing them. I am the one who in fact brought up the $200 (not $1,900) pay error in my Year to Date on 1/3/2011 at a public Council Meeting to the Administrator and Attorney after I emailed them previously. Per Corey, the City Clerk, in his email it was carry over from the previous year. The pay was voted on in 2007 before I was on Council and there is nothing to hide.

Now I favored hiring the #2 bid for engineer because #1 had listed a project manager with no to little field management experience and #2 had 20 years. This $20,000 will probably save us in the long run. One question, Would you want to hire a home builder who is building his/her first house or one that has been building for 20 years? Twenty thousand is only 1.7% of the total job cost and I feel is the correct decision.

JGREEN1515: None of the $1.2 million will come from personal property taxes. $1 million was a grant from the state. If we did not take it then it would be offered to another city. The remaining money (approx $200,000) will come from the Consolidated Highway Fund which is funded by Sales Tax , Gas Tax and other misc taxes and has approx $2 million in the account.

This road was favored by many citizens at the Council meetings as well as business owners and banks in Basehor. This road will also serve as an entrance to the car-wash and Bleachers bar opening up the potential for more businesses as well.

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Thinkaboutit 3 years, 1 month ago

Sooo... Where can I sign the petition to recall Mertz? I had difficulties with the recall website.

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BasehorRecall 3 years, 1 month ago

Simply use the link below to request to sign the petition and a petition holder will contact you to setup a time to sign.

http://www.basehor-recall.com/sign-the-petition

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LDEdwards 3 years, 1 month ago

The fact that jgreen1515 totally got his facts wrong about the Wolf Creek Parkway extension vote goes to show how little people really know about the council members. Lots of people are just jumping on the band wagon against Iris and Dennis because they are neighbors of the mayor and another city councilman. If folks would actually ATTEND the council meetings they would know how the council members vote and would know which council members look out for the citizens of Basehor. The three who started the petition for the recall of Iris and Dennis probably have not been to more than one city council meeting since living in Basehor.

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Dennis Mertz 3 years, 1 month ago

LDEdwards: Just a clarification. None of the Council members nor the Mayor live in the same neighborhood as I do.

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LDEdwards 3 years, 1 month ago

My comment was that the folks jumping on the band wagon against you and Iris all live in Falcon Lakes and are neighbors of the Mayor. All three that filed the recall petition are from that neighborhood. Have any of the three of them EVER been to a council meeting? Maybe Maureen and Chris when the homes association was being sued for negligence to fix a water drainage problem that involved homes association land. Other than that have they ever cared about "city" business?

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softballmom365 3 years ago

And which neighborhood would that be dennis? The house you rent...or the house you stay in with your girlfriend, KiAnn McBratney...

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babetwo 3 years ago

KiAnn McBratney is the Basehor City Prosecuting Attorney.........is residing with Dennis Mertz an ethical issue that needs to be questioned? Her position puts her on the city payroll.

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Thinkaboutit 3 years, 1 month ago

I live near Dennis and have been to more than enough city meetings.

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babetwo 3 years, 1 month ago

M. Townsend, it does not matter whether you buy it or not. It is a fact that Mark Loughry was reappointed in May of 2011 with a Council vote of 5-0. All council members were aware of the fact that Mark Loughry was receiving health care benefits for his family as per his contract when his reappointment was approved. From what I have seen, this Council is not shy about finding and discussing issues related to city contracts, which is their responsibility. Either they were aware that his family benefits were covered in his contract or they were incompetent, which you must be implying. His reappointment removes all questions about his contract or questions about the intent of the contract to pay family benefits from the start. Again, that was May of 2011.

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becky 3 years, 1 month ago

people shall get facts right fred and iris voted againt the no-where road it is a waste of money dennis is right about the #2 bid for enginner you don,t want someone for the first doing this road you want someone with experience how many people of falcon lakes have come to the meeting twice a month i have come twice a month from the beginng of jan. 2011 to now i know the facts i can see and hear and of of the things that you are saiding are not correct there was discission breuer saided it was a seriou action and asked for discussion mertz referred to a pocket information dennis ask the city attorney if they should have a executive session the council went in for excutive session for 15 minutes then came back and make a decision to remove the city admininistrator this monday night november 21, 2011 is council meeting at 7:00 come and see

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jayhawk83 3 years ago

Dear god, woman. I want to know who you are just so I can hire you a tutor. My eyes hurt from deciphering where individual thoughts begin and end...

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babetwo 3 years, 1 month ago

Just a clarification...............all councilpersons and the mayor were elected to represent ALL citizens of Basehor, NOT ONLY the neighborhood in which they reside. Why would Dennis Mertz make the comment about where he resides? Does he think that one neighborhood is better or worse than another? Does he not think that all citizens all equal?

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KSman57 3 years, 1 month ago

"Just a clarification, not a revision" - Mayor Hill "It depends on what the meaning of the words 'is' is." –Bill Clinton

Do the residents of Falcon Lakes feel their neighborhood is better than others? If my memory serves, I believe Falcon Lakes wanted to restrict agricultural and commercial traffic on their roads. I would rather have a tractor driving down my road than a golf cart.

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taxman 3 years, 1 month ago

Mertz's ability to make important decisions regarding city finances are being questioned? Some are now questioning whether Dennis Mertz has the financial experience and knowledge to make financial decisions for the City of Basehor. When we look at Dennis Mertz's own personal and business financial track record we find that Dennis Mertz's has had multiple State Tax Lien's and also one state tax warrant for unpaid taxes. Dennis Mertz's financial history also shows that he has also filed for bankruptcy at least one time. His poor personal financial history raises the question: Is this Councilman Dennis Mertz fit to make financial decision for The City of Basehor? His behavior in the last couple of months show poor judgment putting the city in a position to lose and or waste tens of thousands of dollars. It is no wonder his personal financial track record is so poor.

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Ronald Grover 3 years, 1 month ago

I don't have a horse in this race. I live just outside of the city limits.

However, from my point of view this is getting almost comical. Ever since I have lived out in this area local elections have been a joke and nothing more than a popularity contest of people pushing their own special interest or constituancy.

With all of this comedy hopefully the electorate of Basehor will look more closely at what is going on and the ramifications of electing people that haven't been properly vetted.

Recalls do nothing more that stifle good governance and waste money. An informed electorate is the most effective method of good small town government. Electing people simply because they belong to a bunch of clubs, organizations or neighborhoods results in what we have today.

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becky 3 years, 1 month ago

when did the city of basehor issue a car to the mayor hill that car is to be used by the city employees for errands that was told that one of the council meeting this year.

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becky 3 years, 1 month ago

taxman you look at dennis own personal and business record i think you are telling a tail of lies you would have to show me the proof first before i would believe it as far as the city over paying council members there is 5 council members in basehor and did they get over payed at the same time if 2 got over payed the the rest of them got it too who ever is digging up this shall get facts straight before you print it

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Talisman 3 years, 1 month ago

Becky you should really stop posting until you can learn how to use punctuation! I'm not surprised to hear that from Taxman. I'm sure this is public record and I believe Dennis could do everyone a favor by resigning ahead of the recall!!!

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babetwo 3 years, 1 month ago

Becky there is probably a reason that Dennis does not own a home. We can leave the mis-information to Dennis, Jim and Marilyn. Everything stated so far on the recall site can be backed up with facts.

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Thinkaboutit 3 years, 1 month ago

It is comical that this article is about the mayor and everybody is still expressing their dislike for Dennis' actions. I hope Dennis has noticed the complete lack of support for him and will just bow out while he still can gracefully.

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basehordream 3 years, 1 month ago

Dennis and Iris, I’ve Often Found That The Enemy Works Overtime on Discouragement Right Before God Does Something Awesome! He didn’t bring you this far to let you down or watch you fail! I used to allow myself to think that the two or three negative comments or emails I would get were the opinions of the masses. I was wrong! When you cast a compelling vision…it will fire some people up and piss some people off… And the ones that are pissed are usually the most vocal. But you can’t allow the pissed to trump the passion God has placed inside of you! AND…you’ve got to understand that there are people ON BOARD! People DO BELIEVE in the vision God has placed IN you Hang in there Dennis and Iris. These are the voices of few. There are 5,000 people in this town with 2,900 registered voters.

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Basehorgirl 3 years ago

ha ha ha ha that is hilarious basehordream!! but the best post goes to jgreen1515 stating s/he "wasn't informed of that" ha ha ha lol you all crack me up!

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KSman57 3 years ago

It just proves the ignorance of people. That information is available on this very website. I would bet that most of the posts on here are made by people that have only just become involved in city politics. If they knew what Basehor was like "back in the day" they would be appalled by this council, administrator, and mayor.

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