County commissioners approved the 2016 budget Monday; however, one commissioner’s vote was missing.
Commissioner Lori Lalouette recused herself from voting on the budget when she realized doing so could have created a conflict of interest for 8th District Court Judge Michael Powers, she said.
Had commissioner Lalouette voted to approve a budget including funds for the district court, Powers would have had to step away from any case in which attorney Lalouette would have appeared before him.
Lalouette became aware of the potential conflict from a judicial ethics panel advisory issued for a similar situation in Johnson County last week.
“It also applied to me, obviously,” Lalouette said. “County funds make up a small portion of the overall judicial budget, so none of us thought about this issue until this opinion was published.”
Lalouette also asked commissioners to rescind votes from prior meetings in which she voted for district court and Kansas Legal Services allocations, which they did. Commissioners then reapproved funds for both, with Lalouette recusing herself from the votes. The established recommended budget amounts, but were not official budget approvals.
While no potential conflicts were specified, Lalouette said she decided to retract the votes to “avoid any appearance” of conflict since she is a practicing attorney in the district.
Commissioner Randy Dallke asked Lalouette if he had asked her for her opinion on one of the legal services, and she said yes.
He then asked Lalouette if she felt a commissioner asking her that would be a conflict of interest.
“I don’t think you asking me if they provide a service would be a conflict of interest,” she said.
“I would hope they wouldn’t because you’re someone who’s involved in it,” Dallke replied. “I’d hate to have to go clear out somewhere just to ask a question.”
While the anticipated mills for the 2016 budget remained unchanged, Spencer said increased valuations could result in slightly higher tax bills.
“Our value went up slightly,” Spencer said later Monday afternoon, “so even though it stayed the same, the taxes will probably go up slightly if the value doesn’t go down by November.
“It might go up a bit even though there was no mill increase.”
In other business:
- Eminent domain was exercised to obtain property on Rock Rd. at the county lake in order to provide access for emergency vehicles pass.
- A fuel bid from Cooperative Grain and Supply for $9,138.25 was approved.
- Bud Druse showed commissioners a used trailer he had found in Lyons for $6,000 that could be used to replace a dilapidated trailer at the transfer station. Commissioners decided to pass on the option in favor of getting a new trailer.