The Kansas City Council has scheduled a closed-door retreat Friday to work on team building and interpersonal relationships.
While some council members said they didn’t see why the exercise needed to be done in private, City Attorney Bill Geary said it is legal for the elected officials to hold this type of meeting as long as they don’t discuss city business.
City Councilwoman Alissia Canady said she suggested the workshop because this council has now been in office for nearly a year and she felt it would help them “gel” as a group.
She said her request was not an indication that the council isn’t already working together well. But she expects the workshop would help members to function even more closely as a team as they confront contentious issues such as Kansas City International Airport updates, East Side revitalization and other challenges.
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“The focus is on building group dynamics,” she said, adding that could be beneficial for this 13-member council. The members include eight lawyers who tend to be independent-minded and have strong personalities, traits shared by other council members.
Canady said Mayor Sly James and all other council members had agreed to attend. The retreat, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce boardroom at Union Station, will cost $8,000 from the city’s training budget, and lunch will cost $300.
The retreat will be conducted by Kirk Hardcastle, president of LeaderPoint, a management and leadership consulting firm.
Mayoral spokeswoman Joni Wickham said James wouldn’t object if the retreat were conducted in open session. Several other council members, including Dan Fowler and Teresa Loar, said they thought it should be public.
But Councilman Lee Barnes said he thought the conversations would be more candid and productive if done in closed session.
Canady said she and Hardcastle had agreed the discussion should be private, and the city attorney will be present to ensure it doesn’t stray into matters that should be public.
Geary cited case law showing this type of retreat does not violate the Missouri Sunshine Law governing public records and public meetings. The relevant case involved a 1989 Kansas City school board retreat that was conducted with no public notice.
The Kansas City Star sued, arguing the closed retreat was a violation of the law, and won at the trial level. But the Missouri Court of Appeals found in 1993 that the school board retreat did not violate the Sunshine Law because no public business was discussed and it dealt solely with improving interpersonal relationships and communication skills.