Discussion concerning a proposal for a charter amendment requiring a citizen vote to approve detachment of territory under specific circumstances rallied contrasting opinions at the Monday night Shawnee City Commission meeting.

Discussion concerning a proposal for a charter amendment requiring a citizen vote to approve detachment of territory under specific circumstances rallied contrasting opinions at the Monday night Shawnee City Commission meeting.

City attorney Mary Ann Karns stated Commissioner Keith Hall requested a proposal be drafted for a Charter amendment that would require a vote of the people before an ordinance detaching a tract from the city limits would be effective.

Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tribal Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett addressed the topic during time allotted for citizen participation.

“I’m here to protest the action proposed by Commissioner Hall, and mentioned in the front-page story of the Shawnee News-Star, to take away the right of petition from citizens of Shawnee to deannex their property from the city,” Barrett declared. “This is reprehensible conduct that is contrary to the state statutes on municipal deannexation and is little more than a cheap trick to deny a future of the city commission their right to act on the issue of deannexation as they have since this city was founded.”

Barrett spoke to the consequences of the proposal.

“Two of you are lame duck commissioners,” he declared. “If this proposal is adopted, you go down in history as the commissioners who denied fundamental rights to the citizens of their city.”

Karns clarified to city commissioners the item’s purpose.

“It makes absolutely no change in the ability of property owners to petition for detachment,” she said. “What we’re talking about is, if you decide to detach, do you want the people to vote on that, or do you want it to stay with you?”

Hall expressed his reasoning for favoring a citizen vote.

“As a commissioner, I don’t feel like me and three other people have the right for the city to say we’re going to detach a certain property if there’s already residents and businesses and infrastructure on that property,” he said.

Commissioner Linda Agee raised concerns with the item. She detailed how thousands of dollars could be potentially spent if special elections were to be called. She also alluded to the reasoning that city commissioners have the charge of researching such topics.

“I think this makes it much more difficult for the commission, who is supposed to be elected to represent the interests of the citizens,” she said.

Commissioner Pam Stephens mirrored Agee’s opposition.

“I just have a problem with the timing of this in general and I think we all know where this is headed,” Stephens voiced. “I’m sorry, I’ll be the one to say it, this is all directly related to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and the upcoming election.”

Mayor Wes Mainord said he had not related the item to that concern and further described Hall’s position.

“What he’s saying is that he questions that four people, sitting on the commission, can take away revenue from the city if that entity decides to increase water rates, do whatever it is to all the citizens, without them having the opportunity to vote on it,” Mainord said.

Hall explained that, had he not just learned of the issue, he would have brought the item to commission years ago, as it will affect his grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Agee noted the issue was freshly presented, not allowing for appropriate research time. Stephens agreed.

“Essentially, the people of Shawnee have had three days notice of this, when the agenda came out, and we’re going to go ahead and move forward without talking to people,” Stephens questioned. “We’re just going to shove this through, really quickly, two weeks before an election? Why don’t we have some public hearings?”

Hall responded the vote would be public.

“There will plenty of time between now and November to make a case to the public,” he insisted.

Following additional discussion, there was a vote to table the item until the first city commission meeting in July. Stephens, Agee, Mainord and Commissioner John Winterringer voted to table the item, trumping votes of opposition from Hall, Commissioner James Harrod and Commissioner Steve Smith.

Also on the agenda was consideration of a resolution adopting the city budget for the period of July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015, finding all things necessary have been done in preparation and presentation of budget.

Agee said she thought the budget was good overall, but had issue with the legal fund.

“I can’t support putting another hundred thousand dollars into the legal fund, in addition to the hundred thousand that was added to the budget for the legal department just a few months ago,” she said.

Agee cast the sole vote of opposition.

Commissioners unanimously approved 2014-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreements with the International Union of Police Associations Local No. 3 and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local No. 206.

An item calling for possible action regarding reduction of the statutory minimum liability limits on some city-owned property garnered lively discussion but was tabled for 30 days.