Residents of this Leavenworth County town, which has been roiled by controversy since a city manager was fired, have overwhelmingly recalled the mayor and two City Council members, who were on opposite sides of the issue.
Mayor Terry Hill and council members Dennis Mertz and Iris Dysart were recalled in a special election Tuesday, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. About 65 percent of voters approved Hill’s recall, 61 percent Mertz’s and 59 percent Dysart’s.
Residents had mounted dueling efforts to remove the three after the firing of former City Administrator Mark Loughry. One committee targeted Mertz and Dysart, who supported the firing, and the other sought to recall Hill, who opposed it.
The group opposing Mertz and Dysart alleged that the two council members violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act by having discussions related to Loughry’s firing outside of a public council meeting. The council members denied the accusation.
The committee seeking Hill’s recall accused the mayor of improperly revising Loughry’s contract to give him additional health benefits and authorizing a $50,000 severance check to Loughry without approval from the council. The mayor said both actions were lawful.
Under Kansas law, the three will leave office the day election results are certified, which is expected Monday.
Marilyn Townsend, a Basehor resident who led the effort to recall the mayor but supported Mertz and Dysart, said she was “at a loss for words” after all three were ousted.
“I would never have believed this community would do this,” she said.
Bob Stonacek, a resident who supported the recall effort against the two council members, said he was disappointed that the mayor also was recalled. He guessed that voters upset about City Hall coflicts thought it necessary to change the administration.
“The message probably got out too strong,” Stonacek said.
Tuesday’s turnout of nearly 30 percent easily surpassed turnouts in the last three local elections, which hovered around 18 percent.