Terms limits, ethics reforms and a proposal shifting responsibility for running Jackson County's troubled jail from the county executive to the sheriff's department. Those are among several proposed changes to the county charter that legislator Greg Grounds would like to put on the August ballot.
Grounds, one of two Republicans on the nine-member county legislature, has been crafting his proposal for months, sharing bits of it with colleagues individually and in small groups.
Monday was the first public announcement of his four-page reform package, which if approved would be the capstone to Grounds' 12 years representing the 5th District in eastern Jackson County.
Grounds is not running for a fourth four-year term and before he goes wants to fix perceived shortcomings in county governance.
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That includes a system that now allows county legislators to stay in office for decades. Grounds would limit them to two four-year terms.
He would also imbue the legislature with more oversight responsibilities of county contracts.
But his proposal is not, as some in the courthouse perceive it to be, an attempt to strip embattled County Executive Frank White of some of his powers.
"Frank, this is not about you," Grounds said as White sat quietly while initial discussion began of a proposal that would transfer some of his office's power to the legislature, county prosecutor and sheriff.
For instance, legislators would choose the county counselor from a list of three nominees, where now the county executive makes that choice.
The legislature recently passed an ordinance transferring authority for running the county's anti-drug agency COMBAT from the executive to the prosecutor. That power shift would become firmly established through a charter amendment, while now it is under legal challenge.
The proposal would also make the county executive subject to the same ethical rules as legislators and set out provisions for removing them from office if they have taxes that are overdue for more than a year.
Grounds said he is not wedded to every issue in the package. His intention was to get a discussion started, he said. But he stood firm on his proposed timeline.
Legislator Crystal Williams said he is rushing things. For any proposal to get on the August ballot, the ballot language would have to be approved in May.
Williams said that's not enough time for broad public discussion of what she sees as some fundamental issues, including Grounds' proposal to eliminate one of three at-large seats, all of which are held by Democrats.
"Under no circumstances do we rush something like this," she said.
Grounds said he has no partisan motives, but said he'd rather put something on the August ballot than nothing at all. For that reason he would be willing to advance some of the proposals, if not all, rather than wait until November and perhaps get nothing accomplished.
"My biggest fear is it gets drug out," he said.
Some proposals are sure to prove more controversial than others. Under Grounds' plan, the salaries of all 12 county elected officials would be adjusted. The county executive, sheriff and prosecutor would receive the same salary as the mayor of Kansas City, which a city spokesman said is $123,000 a year.
That would be a raise for the sheriff, a slight decrease for the prosecutor and more than a 15 percent cut from the county executive's salary of $145,300.
Legislators, on the other, would be paid the same as Kansas City Council members. Legislators now get $34,881 a year for their part-time jobs. Council members, who are also part-time, get $61,560, the city spokesman said.
That big bump would mean higher pensions for Grounds and other current legislators. That's because those pensions are a percentage of what the job pays when they start collecting their pension, not what it paid when they were in office.
Some skeptics of the proposed changes say privately that they will make an issue of that windfall, if the plan is approved.
"I was aware of the potential criticism," Grounds told The Star.
But he says that under his proposal, county legislators would be working more than than they do now and thinks the current salary keeps average wage earners from serving as county legislators.
"This would allow people who aren't self-employed to do that job," he said.
White said he has not had time to study the proposal.