Political action committee launches recall petition of Kansas City mayor, five council members

(The Center Square) – After failing to get the required number of verified signatures for a recall election for a Kansas City councilman, the political action committee “Take KC Back” launched another campaign to recall the mayor and five council members.

The group filed affidavits on Sept. 22 to recall Mayor Quinton Lucas and council members Katheryn Shields, Brandon Ellington, Andrea Bough, Lee Barnes and Kevin O’Neill. A news release from the organization said a “majority of voters in Kansas City do not want money taken from the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) budget, nor do they support the process in which it happened.”

An effort to recall councilman Eric Bunch failed last week as the city clerk’s office determined the group was short 220 signatures. However, Shannon Bjornlie, communications director for “Take KC Back,” said the group believes it collected the required number of valid signatures and won’t comment further on the advice of legal counsel.

The recall effort of Bunch and now Lucas and five council members is motivated by the way the council adopted a policy to control funds allocated to the KCPD, which has been under the control of the state and a five-member board of commissioners since 1939. Four commissioners are appointed by the governor and the mayor is the fifth.

Lucas led efforts to pass ordinances in May to take $42.3 million from the KCPD budget and place it in a newly created Community Services and Prevention Fund. The police commissioners and the city manager must now reach an agreement on how the funds will be spent.

The process was widely criticized as not being transparent and Lucas admitted in media reports to excluding council members in the Northland area of the city, who would have voiced opposition to the new ordinances. KCPD’s current budget is $239 million. After the reduction of $42.3 million, the KCPD receives 20% of the city’s general revenue, a minimum required by state law.

Bjornlie said her organization opposes the process used to divert the funds, the requirement to negotiate with the city for the funds and any money allocated to an organization other than the KCPD.

“The legislation is extremely problematic,” Bjornlie said. “In essence, if they were to give one dime to any other group, then they have defunded the police. If they try to tell you it’s going back into the police department, then why did they take it out to begin with? Now, the police have to go back and ask for the money and the city council will decide whether or not to do that. In essence, the police will become city-controlled when we’re state-controlled.”

The Kansas City charter states any officer elected by a vote of the people may be removed from office by the electors of the city or district by which they were chosen. An affidavit for a recall of the official must be filed with the city clerk along with the grounds alleged for the removal. The grounds must relate to and affect the administration of the official’s office and substantially affect the rights and interests of the public.

The recall petition must be filed with the city clerk or election authorities within 30 days after the filing of the affidavit. The number of signatures of registered voters must be at least 20% of the total vote cast for candidates for mayor at the last municipal election. Lucas received 63% of the 47,802 votes cast in the June 2019 municipal general election. Therefore, 9,560 verified signatures will be required for a recall election.

Bjornlie said her organization held a rally last week and approximately 200 people are gathering 75 signatures per petition as they work toward the Oct. 22 deadline.

In a July 15 filing with the Missouri Ethics Commission, “Taking KC Back” reported it received no contributions during the reporting period, had $33.45 in assets and $180 in debts.

A message sent to the mayor’s office was not returned.

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