KC Star Prime Buzz – Legal opinion sought on alleged JCCC meeting violations

Source: http://primebuzz.kcstar.com/?q=node/18262

Legal opinion sought on alleged JCCC meeting violations

Benjamin Hodge, a member of the Johnson County Community College board of trustees, has wondered for weeks whether the board violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act on two separate occasions.

Benjamin HodgeHe has raised the speculation at board meetings and on his Johnson County blog site on http://www.redcounty.com.

His assumptions are now being put to a legal test. He has asked Steve Howe, Johnson County’s district attorney, for a formal legal opinion on these issues.

Here are the instances he wants the DA to examine.

He wrote a letter to the editor, which was printed in The Star Nov. 29, suggesting the board might be considering an increase in property taxes. It prompted a December letter signed by four of the six trustees denying Hodge’s assertion.

Hodge believes a letter signed by a majority of the board violated the open meetings law.

He believes the second violation may have occurred during a closed executive session Feb. 19 in which the board met to review the performance of Terry Calaway, college president.

Prior to the meeting, Hodge said he would evaluate Calaway based on a budget proposal that did not raise taxes.

Calaway responded during his closed evaluation with a list of more than 50 budget cuts being considered at the time as administrators worked on a budget proposal that was presented to the board earlier this month.

Hodge said he never asked for such a list to be presented during Calaway’s review. Calaway said he presented the list to show Hodge that he was working on reductions that ultimately would not raise taxes.

The administration proposal presented earlier this month did not include a tax increase.

Hodge released the list of potential reductions a week after the February meeting to a reporter for The Star and a short story was published on Prime Buzz.

That set off a firestorm at the college, including an angry response from Calaway and, later, a blistering attack on Hodge by other board members.

The board’s attorney, Mark Ferguson, told the board in March that no violation occurred because the budget reduction list was presented to the board during an evaluation of Calaway. Ferguson said he had informally consulted the district attorney’s office and the Kansas attorney general’s office and both agreed with his conclusion.

Those were informal opinions, however. Hodge wants a researched, formal opinion.

Howe said his office has received the complaint and is working on a legal opinion.