Barbara Shelly

Fresh start needed in Wyandotte County commission fracas

It’s anybody’s guess what Wyandotte County’s Unified Government Board of Commissioners will do Thursday night about the vacant commission seat that has become a dark crater as new Mayor Mark Holland attempts to get his administration up and running.

The vacancy is for Holland’s former commission seat. Eighteen candidates auditioned, and commissioners voted for two unfortunate finalists: developer Don Budd, a polarizing figure for years in county politics; and Nathan Barnes, who left his commission seat after 18 years to run unsuccessfully for mayor and is not exactly a breath of fresh air. Both finalists were associated with businesses that were tax-delinquent in recent years.

The commission was unable to pick a new member last month. Three votes all resulted in a 5 to 5 tie, with Holland voting for Barnes in order to keep the controversial Budd from gaining a seat.

Six votes are needed to seat a commissioner and, as of today, there is no indication the impasse has been breached. That could make for a long night when the commission convenes at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Hall.

Several scenarios could play out. Someone on the commission could change sides. Or members could reopen the process. Or commissioners could opt to leave the seat open until the election in 2015.

Of those choices, the fresh start is the most appealing. The commission has lost some credibility in this process by insisting on voting through secret ballots. Members have a chance to start over and be more transparent. They should seize it.

But however they proceed, it’s imperative to get the matter resolved. Commissioners won’t be able to focus on running a county with a political battle going on in the background. They need to figure out a way to setting the question.