Councilmembers Nearly Violate Law By Email Response

By: Justin Surrency Email
By: Justin Surrency Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)__A quick and efficient way many of us now communicate with a group of people, could have public officials breaking the law.

A discussion today has Topeka city council members learning the finer points of emails, and the "reply all" button.

This all started when Councilwoman Elaine Schwartz raised a question about an item on Tuesday's City Council agenda. What unfolded has the city suggesting a refresher course on transparency.

After looking at Tuesday's City Council agenda, District 7 Councilwoman Elaine Schwartz took issue that Mayor Larry Wolgast made a recommendation for a community corrections advisory board position in her district, without her input.

She said, "I would have thought that would be protocol that if a vacancy from a certain district, that it would be courtesy to contact that council person to let them know there is a vacancy and if they have any recommendations. That was my whole intent.

Schwartz copied all council members on the email, and when District 2 Councilman John Campos hit "reply all" to the discussion, City Manager Jim Colson was wary the group was hovering near violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

City Attorney Chad Sublet reviewed the chain and, in a statement, told 13 News, he doesn't believe it violates KOMA because there was no intent by the participants to reach an agreement on the topic.

Councilman Chad Manspeaker raised concerns more than a month ago over similar emails.

He said, "I'm not disagreeing with my colleagues or there issues. My concern is the process and how we communicate. Open meetings exist for a reason and the best way to communicate is in the weekly city council meetings.

In response to Tuesday's situation, City Manager Jim Colson is urging council members to attend a KOMA training session offered by Attorney General Derek Schmidt later this month.

Further discussion over Schwartz's concerns about Mayoral appointments is expected at Tuesday's open city council meeting.

631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email:
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