Now, you knew I was going to have something to say about the Clay County Commission’s lawsuit against the Clay County Constitution. My newest column is posted on TheNorthlandPost.com.

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Comments
  1. Ron says:

    Since I am sure I am in the extreme minority of your readers, I especially appreciate you allowing me to share my thoughts on the proposed constitution.

    As if often the case, persons can read and consider the same document and circumstances, and in good faith come to separate conclusions.

    Possibly a new form of government deserves serious discussion and reflection by us, the citizens of Clay County. But I just do not believe the proposed constitution is it.

    To be right up front, as a conservative and a CPA, I do not support the proposed change to our Clay County government basically for six basis reasons.

    First. I believe that, to the greatest extent possible, governmental positions that immediately impact the finances of our County should be filled by persons elected by, and responsible to the citizens – NOT hired by politicians.

    The Assessor, Collector and Treasurer are now accountable to the us, the electorate. The proposed constitution will destroy this, and these officials will rely on politicians for their jobs. But most amazing, the constitution does this to the County Auditor who absolutely must remain independent since she-he audits the County financial operations of those very politicians.

    I feel that the persons responsible for the stewardship of Clay County funds should remain singularly responsible and accountable to the electorate, and not to a group of part-time politicians.

    Second. Under the constitution, our County will be governed by part-timers on stipend.

    An argument for the constitution is that because Clay County is so large, the three commissioners should be replaced by seven. That argument, however, is neutered by these seven being mere part-timers.

    Also, who has the free time to take on a part-time shared executive position over a County with budgeted expenditures exceeding $70 Million? Two classes come to mind, neither of which are compelling: those who are unemployed and unable to secure employment, and the wealthy who don’t need work. Neither are representative of us in Clay County.

    Third. The constitution really bumps up against my conservative sway favoring the sovereignty of the people over the politicians. The proposed constitution expressly states that when there is a question on its interpretation, “. . . powers under this Constitution shall be construed liberally in favor of the county.” [proposed constitution, Section 1.08].

    As a political conservative, I find this “liberally in favor of” text astonishing and disturbing. And as a conservative, I would have hoped that the presumption would have been in favor of people – not in favor of government and its inevitable expansion.

    Four. Anything as sweeping as a wholesale change to the government of our County should find its birth in and with the people. This idea of a constitution was not from a groundswell of shared support from Clay County business, organized labor, civic, religious and community groups. Rather, it is from two former Clay County officials in their Lame Duck tenure after the voters excused them from office.

    Five. Three comments on “legal” matters:

    Defective Ballot. The judge ruled that probably the easiest document to draft – the ballot itself – was “defective”. That’s legal nicety for saying it was just flat wrong. It shouldn’t therefore be a stretch to see similar defects in the proposed constitution to be voted upon.

    Defective Constitution. If passed, the constitution repeals the County’s current elected positions in November the day after the election [proposed constitution, Sect. 11.02A]. Then it says that the ousted officials are to continue to next May in the term of the positions that were just eliminated. How? – the positions were just eliminated! That’s like taking the keys and selling the car, then giving the keys back and say “drive” – drive what?

    Legally “ripe”. This just means that there has to be an existing problem before a judge will take a look. Yes, as Mrs. Pelosi suggests, we have to pass the constitution to see what’s legally in it. But actually, we don’t have to pass it. We, the people, can reject this fourth effort to drastically alter our Clay County government.

    Six. Everything the Constitution Doesn’t Say. Remember, should there be any question over any of the following financially explosive issues, the answer is to be “construed liberally in favor of the county”.

    Bonds. Now, officeholders who handle Clay County’s $70+ million budget must be bonded and/or have errors and omissions insurance. The proposed constitution does not require this bonds or insurance protection.

    Unchecked Salaries. The current salary caps in Missouri law for office holders [$50-67 thousand] are lifted and the part-time executives would set salaries.

    Let’s not forget that the Jackson County Assessor, who is appointed and not elected by the people, makes over $100 thousand in salary alone. Even the Missouri Supreme Court Judges have salary caps.

    Unchecked Property Tax Assessments. There is no cap on how much our property assessments can go up under the proposed constitution.

    All Risk – NO Reward Section 1.10 of the proposed constitution specifically allows the County to participate in private projects with private corporations and “share in the responsibilities and costs” of the project. This proposed constitution is totally silent on sharing in any profit or gain from the project.

    We Clay County taxpayers should not be the private slush fund or stash for government insiders to bankroll supporters’ pet projects.

    Unrestricted Debt. The proposed Constitution is silent as to how much debt the County can enter incur.

    Lastly, all I have to do is look at the Jackson County political machine with a governmental structure mirrored by the proposed constitution to Vote No.

    Thank you for allowing me to pass along my thoughts on this matter.

  2. John Sanderford says:

    As a conservative attorney, I would respectfully disagree with almost all of Ron’s comments. However, I would encourage all of those planning to vote on the proposed Constitution of Clay County to actually read it. Please read 11.02A and decide for yourself what is meant by “…these offices are terminated effective on May 1, 2014.”. Also, please read the sections establishing the rules for public initiative, referendum and recall of elected officials. Just electing a person to office does not make the officeholder responsive. This fact is exemplified everyday from Washington to Clay County. The clear focus of the lawsuit by the Commissioners is to use taxpayer money for the primary purpose of keeping their taxpayer paid salaries. It is my opinion that the current Clay County system is dysfunctional. Hopefully, enough Clay County voters will take the time to look past rhetoric and hyperbole, read the proposed Constitution and decide for themselves if this the right path forward for Clay County.

    • Scott T. says:

      I read it. The “offices” are abolished the day after the election. Yes, the elected folks continue their terms until May 1, 2014. But, since the “offices” are abolished the day after the election, no powers exist for them to continue their duties.

      If you care to read the Missouri Constitution – Public Officer section, you will find that no term of an elected person can be shortened. This proposal shortens terms, thus it is unconstitutional….

      Vote NO.

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