Shawnee City Commissioners focused much of their time determining what to put up to a vote by residents on election day in June.

Shawnee City Commissioners focused much of their time determining what to put up to a vote by residents on election day in June.

The board voted to direct staff to prepare an ordinance and resolution relating to the calling of an election for the purpose of a one-half cent sales tax for the June 26, 2018, general election. A proposed length of time for the tax (the maximum is 10 years) and where funds could go will be determined later.

Another item going on the ballot would change the way city commissioners handle business. As it operates now, commissioners consider and vote on ordinances and then vote again to issue resolutions. City Manager Justin Erickson said the result essentially causes a lot of duplication.

City Attorney Joe Vorndran said state law only requires a resolution, so — should the item pass — it would allow the city to default to state law. It would cut the redundancy of walking through two steps to get to the same outcome.

Also, the board discussed whether to amend the City Charter regarding electing city commissioners at-large.

Some commissioners are clearly divided on where they stand regarding whether to put commissioner seats in the hands of each ward or the community as a whole. Ward 5 City Commissioner Lesa Shaw voiced her support of a study done last year by former Ward 2 City Commissioner Linda Agee which supported a ward-only approach — so representation is chosen solely by each ward's constituents. Ward 2 City Commissioner Ron Gillham Sr. said more voters is the way to go. He said he believes it's easier for a large entity to push its influence when there's a smaller pool of voters.

Either way, Mayor Richard Finley said the election in June is coming up too soon for any charter change to affect this next round of commissioners.

There's time to talk this over; there's no immediate deadline since it can't impact the commission until at least two years from now, he said.

Finally, commissioners called for a general and runoff election for Ward 1, Ward 5 and Ward 6 seats, as the terms will be up. The seats are currently held by Dub Bushong, Shaw and Ben Salter, respectively. Wards 2, 3 and 4 — held by Gillham, James Harrod and Darren Rutherford, respectively — expire in 2020.

In other action, the board also voted to amend the charter, which would allow new commissioners to immediately be sworn in and step in to their seats. Before, newly elected commissioners had to wait two months to serve, yet fulfill a full 4-year term, which caused a conflict between two charter provisions when following general election rules.

Last year Vorndran brought to commissioners the issue of contradictory language in the charter that would now be resolved with an agreement to the length of terms.

Though a provision states swearing in of newly-elected officials should be immediate, the issue with cutting out the delay is that it causes another portion of the charter — which requires commissioners to serve specifically four years — to become an impossibility for existing commissioners to fill.

“Between June and September there exists within the charter some ambiguity relating to elections and when new commissioners are to take office,” he said. “… the commission will recall, we have a provision that says new commissioners are to be sworn in immediately — the first Monday following the certification of the general election results.”

The city's charter defines general election as meaning the date on which the state primary is held, which is somewhat confusing, in and of itself, Vorndran said.

“So, essentially you're looking at a charter provision that says you are to be sworn in once elected (and certified the Monday after the June election), which would be the first Monday in July, typically,” he said.

The problem with that, and what prior council interpreted, is there is a potential for a runoff election, which then would place swearing-in the first week of September, Vorndran said.

He said to further complicate matters, Shawnee's charter also required each commissioner to serve a four-year term, and, the last charter amendment that said to swear in immediately after the June election made no reference or accommodation for the fact that the first time a new group of commissioners would be sworn in, in July, the outgoing commissioners would not be serving a full four-year term.

“So, we've kind of had all of this at play; I believe the consensus ... was for new commissioners to be sworn in immediately after their election — the first meeting in July — rather than having a “lamed up” period for outgoing commissioners during that 60 days,” he said.