Council member ousted
Mayor refuses to reappoint him after problem with voter registration
A dispute over whether he was a registered voter led to Rick Reynolds losing his Peabody City Council seat Monday meeting.
“I feel as if this happened because I didn’t follow the mayor’s personal agenda,” Reynolds said afterward. “I was fighting for Peabody, not Larry Larsen, and I will be looking into the statues for having a mayor recalled.”
Reynolds, appointed to the council by Larsen in December 2016, was notified by city clerk Jonna Munson two weeks ago that officials had been unable to find his voter registration.
“I did register to vote when I was 18 and signed up for the Selective Service,” Reynolds said, but his registration apparently was lost or expired.
Under state law, council members are required to be registered voters. He didn’t need to prove his registration to join the council because he had been appointed rather than elected.
Reynolds said he took immediate action and handed in documents needed to register.
But, he said, “Jonna said she never received the correct information after I gave it to her, which meant I was no longer a valid city council member. The city attorney told them I needed to vacate my seat.”
That message appears to have been delivered during a closed-door session Jan. 29 when, on a motion from council member Travis Wilson, the commission entered executive session for attorney-client privilege while discussing an agreement involving a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway crossing.
Approved minutes from the meeting indicate that no motions were made and no actions taken after the session, but Reynolds left at the session’s conclusion.
If his status member were discussed, as Reynolds states, the action would have been a clear violation of Kansas Open Meetings Act.
Reynolds returned to the council Monday and asked to be reappointed, but Mayor Larry Larsen declined to nominate him.
Reynolds’ seat wasn’t the only seat up for grabs. After missing the last two meetings, Matthew Litton, who had been appointed just a month ago, resigned.
Instead of nominating Reynolds to resume his seat after clarifying his registration, Larsen instead nominated Jay Gfeller and Lindsay Hutchinson to fill the two vacancies
Wilson and council member Beth Peter voted to approve. Council member Tom Spencer abstained.
“We had a new city clerk at the time, and I feel like this was a small clerical error and he took care of it,” Spencer said.
Before the new members were selected, Reynolds and Larsen argued over whether the council or the mayor had the right to nominate appointees.
Reynolds said he had spoken to an official with the League of Municipalities who told him council members could make a motion to reinstate him without the mayor nominating him.
Larsen disagreed, saying he had spoken to the same person and been told the mayor had the right to make appointments, which the council could then vote to confirm or reject.
The two looked to Peabody city attorney Robert Lane for an answer. Lane sided with Larsen.
“I have done a lot in the last 13 months and have really enjoyed serving on the council,” Reynolds said. “Nobody tried to do better for the city than I have.”
Lane then addressed whether city actions taken while Reynolds was on the council might be challenged.
“I did have some fears about the things that have been voted on in the last 13 months,” Lane said. “But after research, as long as he was in good standing at the time, the acts were completely legitimate, and you won’t have to redo anything, which is good news.”
In other business, the council:
- Agreed to increase its donation to Safe Kids Camp to $75
- Heard from resident N.M. Patton that someone in the community had agreed to match up to $10,000 for the Peabody Hearts for Hart Park organization.