City leaders have placed a few propositions on the ballot for next month's election; the measures are an effort to resolve conflicting code language and redundancy issues.

City leaders have placed a few propositions on the ballot for next month's election; the measures are an effort to resolve conflicting code language and redundancy issues.

• Proposition No. 1: This proposition clarifies when city commissioners and the mayor take office and provides that they take office on the first Monday of the month, following their election (regular or runoff).


At a board retreat in January of 2017, City Commissioners spent a lot of time hashing out election processes and issues with the city charter to clarify the terms of office and realign those in conflict.

Mayor Richard Finley said the board needed to consider the swearing in immediately following an election instead of waiting two or three months.

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

City Attorney Joe Vorndran explained the problematic issue.

“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 requires each commissioner to serve a four-year term, and, where we stand right now, the last charter amendment that said to swear in immediately after the June election makes no reference or accommodation for the fact that the first time a new group of commissioners will be sworn in, in July, the outgoing commissioners would not be serving a full four-year term.

“So, we've kind of got 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.

“We already have a charter provision that says it — it's just in conflict with two other charter provisions,” he said.

He suggested a charter amendment that doesn't specify that it be a full four-year term, but simply specifies that it be four years between the elections, so there can be some flexibility, to remove that ambiguity, and then go ahead and clarify within the existing charter provision.

“You have to look in another title to find the definition of general election, so if we go ahead and define general election and place the state statutory definition within the charter provision, I think it would remove that ambiguity and you would be left with a situation where, whether it's exactly four years, a little over or under, each commissioner would be sworn in the Monday immediately following the certification of the election results,” he said.

At that retreat Ward 5 City Commissioner Lesa Shaw asked how the commission began the delayed swearing-in process in the first place.

Vorndran said, “I would say, best efforts of (former) legal interpretation.”

He said the last charter amendment that simply says new commissioners are to be sworn in the first Monday after the certification of election results, was an amendment ... in 2011, and it, standing alone, makes perfect sense.

“But, combining it with the other existing provisions in the charter — specifically the one that requires you to serve a four-year term — then it creates a conflict between the two,” he said. “Prior counsel (former City Attorney Mary Ann Karns), with whom I have spoken about this issue, essentially gave favor to the longstanding provision that you serve four years, and she was giving deference to the fact that there is a possibility for a runoff election which would take place in August, which would mean the swearing-in would take place in September.”

Vorndran said her rationale was that September is the more appropriate date and it was precedential, because that had been historically when it occurred.

“So if we have two commissioners that are elected in June and there's one runoff, will those two go ahead and be seated and then the other one will be seated immediately after the runoff?” Finley asked.

“The change I'm proposing, yes, that's exactly correct,” Vorndran said.

Such charter changes, however, must go before voters to be approved — hence the election in June.

• Proposition No. 2: This proposition concerns the appointment of the vice-mayor, which is done on an annual basis by the City Commission. It clarifies the timing of the appointment when there is a general election, runoff election, or in years with no election.


In Article III, Section 6, of the City Charter, the board is obligated to appoint one of its members vice-mayor for one year on the first Monday in the month following the general election, and then again annually on the first Monday of the same month each year.

The proposed change takes out literal dates that have to be strictly followed (e.g., the first Monday in the month), and adds some flexibility by replacing them with less restrictive wording. In this case, the proposed amendment reads, “or after the runoff election if applicable that particular year, or on the first Commission meeting in July in years without an election.

• Proposition No. 3: If approved, this proposition would change the method of ordering the holding of elections by allowing the City to pass a resolution in accordance with state law. City Charter currently requires passage of an ordinance.


Currently in Article XIV, Section 7, of the City Charter, the board orders the holding of all elections, except as otherwise provided in the Charter, by ordinance. The proposed change would allow commissioners to do it by resolution, which conforms to state law.

What's the difference?

A municipal ordinance generally means that a municipal act is adopted that has the force and effect of a law, the violation of which may be enforced in city municipal court — it's a law. A resolution is a formal expression of the opinion or will of an official municipal body adopted by a vote — it's a position, or a policy.

The current practice is that city commissioners often vote both to approve a resolution and the again vote to approve an ordinance over the same item. It's a redundancy that is unnecessary.

The election will be held June 26.