Thursday night’s Wyandotte County Commission meeting was noteworthy for its intense emotion, drama...and unnecessary secrecy.
Commissioners cast three ballots to fill a vacant seat on the Unified Government board, and all three resulted in 5-5 deadlocks between developer Don Budd and former Commissioner Nathan Barnes.
What was troubling, though, was the way commissioners went about their business. On all three ballots, commissioners indicated their choice by filling out a paper ballot at their desks. Those ballots were then handed to the county clerk for tabulation and for an announcement of the results.
Missing was any indication ofhow
each commissioner voted.
Maybe there’s an exception in the Kansas Open Records law that allows for such a thing. But it’s the wrong way to run a public hearing on a matter of such obvious public interest. The commission’s chambers were almost packed Thursday night.
As the meeting progressed, commissioners made enough public comments so that reporters and citizens could come close to piecing together who was backing whom. Mayor Mark Holland and commissioners Jane Winkler Philbrook, Brian McKiernan and Gayle Townsend indicated they backed Barnes.
In a quick interview afterward, Commissioner Tarence Maddox said he was Barnes’ fifth vote.
But there shouldn’t have been any mystery. A newly seated commission that’s seeking to build trust and a rapport with the public should have been more open about their votes.
Wyandotte County wants to continue its economic rebound. Needless secrecy won’t aid that important effort.