Petitioners seek to boot Trustees from board

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By Shane Farley
June 18, 2014 - 11:27:42 am

Cowley College Board of Trustees chair Ron Godsey and trustee Dennis Shurtz would face a recall election if petitions calling for their ouster garner an appropriate number of valid signatures.

County attorney Chris Smith, in a letter dated May 29, said he had been asked to review the petitions for content and form. Shurtz and Godsey are accused of open meetings violation said to have been made earlier this year.

Smith said the petitions are properly constructed for public dissemination and make a specific accusation, regarding misconduct in office, that allow Godsey and Shurtz an opportunity to defend themselves.

Smith noted his job was not to consider the validity of the claims in a recall petition but to affirm a petition is properly formatted and contains a specific accusation. He did say in his letter that his office was never contacted in regard to investigating open meetings violations by the board of trustees.

In Kansas, a recall effort is warranted only if misconduct in office is alleged or a public official commits a felony or fails to perform the duties of the office.

The college trustees and former school president Clark Williams came under fire for a number of recent decisions, that included eliminating the menís and womenís soccer teams.

Williams resigned as a result and trustees reversed some decisions, including those regarding soccer. At the time, some members of the public questioned whether meetings conducted to make decisions about the college were done so in accordance with open meetings law.

The approval of the petitions is an early step in the recall process. Now, those circulating the petitions must collect the requisite number of signatures needed to put the recall questions on the ballot.

County election officer Karen Defore said 1,105 signatures would be needed for Shurtz to be subject to recall and 938 would be need for Godsey. The difference in those numbers is due to the men being elected in different election years, she said.

Those collecting signatures have 90 days from the date of the first signature collected to accumulate the required number. Election workers must then validate each person as a registered voter and validate each signature. Thirty days are allowed for that process.

Defore said if a recall vote or votes are required she would work to have them on the general election ballot Nov. 4.

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