It shouldn’t take a law.
It should be self-evident that, if you don’t file for election — or lose an election — you should not be appointed to a vacant seat.
It should also be self-evident that, if you get fired for cause, you shouldn’t then be hired back as a consultant — or as an employee — once a new commission takes office.
All three of those things have happened in Kansas within the last 12 months.
In Crawford County, in the span of a few months, twice someone resigned from a board, only to be appointed to an open seat with two years left to go.
In the most egregious case in Arma, a candidate who lost the election was appointed to an open seat which had been held open for five weeks.
In Leavenworth County an attorney who was fired for cause, was then rehired first as a contractor and then to his previous position as county counsel when one of the two people who voted to fire him, lost an election to a supporter of the attorney.
This is cronyism at its worst. Regardless of whether or not these people were qualified — and in the Crawford County cases we stipulate that they indeed were qualified — the voters either were denied a chance to weigh in, or were ignored.
That this practice is legal does not make it ethical.
Moreover, we find it very difficult to believe that such “seat-swaps” were not discussed beforehand — in direct violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.
Unfortunately, Kansas legislators — while agreeing that the seat-swapping practice should end — seem reluctant to pass an amendment requiring those who resign from a non-partisan governing body such as a school board or city council to wait at least 12 months before either running for an open seat or being reappointed.
This is political cowardice. This should be an easy, bipartisan bill which would show the Legislature is serious about making sure Kansas voters have confidence in their local governing bodies.
City councils and school boards are the most direct democracy this country has, and the opportunity for the voters to have their say should not be circumvented either for convenience — or because someone wants their buddy on the board.