In 2017 we called for an amendment to Kansas Statutes to prevent so-called “seat swapping” in the state.
We did so after a pair of incidents in Crawford County — one in Frontenac and one in Arma — in which someone either already on a governing board, as in Frontenac, or — more egregiously — who had lost an election, as in Arma, was appointed to an open seat with two or more years to run.
We asked the local legislative delegation to spearhead this. Moreover we joined with other newspapers in Kansas to investigate this sort of cronyism and found that, disturbingly, these incidents were not isolated.
We said then this is antithetical to the sort of democratic republican form of government upon which this country was founded.
In the Arma case the will of the voters was clear — and thwarted by the mayor who decided to appoint the man who lost the seat over other qualified candidates.
We brought this to the attention of the legislature. We even provided proposed language:
“Upon resigning from a Governing Body, no former member of that Body shall be eligible to serve upon that Body, by appointment or election, until at least 12 months shall have passed.”
A hearing was even scheduled, although we weren’t made aware of it until after the fact, and when no one showed up the hearing was canceled.
Let us be clear, had we been informed, we would have been happy to attend and testify.
But the bill died without so much as debate.
In 2018 we called again upon the Legislature to make this a priority in the 2019 session. We have yet to hear that anyone in Topeka is taking this seriously.
We said in 2018 “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.”
We said then, and say now, this is political cowardice. This should be something both sides of our sharply-divided legislature easily can agree on.
We will be in Topeka this week, and be assured, we will discuss it with legislators.
We again call on the Crawford County delegation to bring this to the floor.
We hear much from the Legislature on transparency, let them then stand for it, rather than for “good-old-boy” networking and cronyism.