Elections

Jackson County voters approve term limits and pay raises for some, but not others

Frank White sworn in as Jackson County executive

Former Kansas City Royals great Frank White was sworn in on January 11, 2016, as the Jackson County executive in a brief ceremony at the historic Truman Courthouse in Independence. White will serve in the position for the remainder of 2016.
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Former Kansas City Royals great Frank White was sworn in on January 11, 2016, as the Jackson County executive in a brief ceremony at the historic Truman Courthouse in Independence. White will serve in the position for the remainder of 2016.

Jackson County overwhelmingly approved keeping County Executive Frank White and Sheriff Darryl Forte in their jobs Tuesday, but tweaked their job descriptions, notably handing control of the troubled jail to the sheriff’s office.

Neither candidate’s victory came as a surprise, nor was the final result unexpected in the only other contest for county office. The Democrat running to replace Dennis Waits for the 3rd District seat on the county legislature, Charlie Franklin, also cruised to victory.

The bigger uncertainty for county government watchers was whether voters would approve seven proposals to change the county charter. In the end, it was a mixed bag.

After several years of turmoil at the county jail, voters said yes to Question 3, transferring responsibility for running the detention center from the county executive to the sheriff’s office. They also passed Question 4, ratifying a recent decision by the county legislature handing over administration of the county’s anti-drug and anti-violence agency COMBAT from the county executive to the prosecutor.

In doing so, they approved pay hikes for both the sheriff and the prosecutor, along with limits in how long anyone can hold those jobs without a break: three four-year terms each. Also approved was Question 5, which gives the legislature more control over the county counselor.

But with all precincts reporting, voters narrowly rejected terms limits and pay raises for the county executive and legislators, as well as an attempt to strip the executive of even more power.

White opposed all seven charter questions, saying they would likely be challenged in court if voters approved them. His campaign fund was the biggest contributor to an opposition group, the Committee for Charter Integrity.

Business groups also opposed the measures. The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors cited a “lack of citizen input” in drafting the proposals as the main reason. The Civic Council, a group of the area’s top corporate leaders, had similar concerns.

Unlike past attempts to amend the county charter, the package on Tuesday’s ballot was not hashed out in public by a citizen commission. Instead, retiring legislator Greg Grounds put the proposal together with input from fellow legislators.

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