KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Imagine signing your own resignation letter right when you got hired for a job. That’s what the volunteers appointed by Mayor Sly James to our city’s high-profile boards and commissions have done.
The resignation letters are signed by each new board or commission member, but they aren’t dated. The date left empty can be filled in by Mayor Sly James when he chooses.
His office says this new tactic is to make government more efficient.
“There were people who had passed away that were still serving on boards,” spokesperson Danny Rotert said.
Others worry this could make board and commission members less independent when making political decisions.
Dan Cofran runs the Citizens Association.
“As chairman of the Citizens Association, we have not taken a position on that,” he said. “My personal opinion is, I don’t see how this serves a constructive purpose. Citizens are appointed to commissions to give elected officials independent recommendations. The threat of being removed might intimidate those people. It is not in the best interest of the government."
At least one sitting city council member agrees there could be a chilling effect on independence among board members and commissioners if the Mayor could enforce their resignation by simply filling in a date. That council member did not want to be named, fearing retaliation.
Previous administrations, including Mayors Mark Funkhouser and Kay Barnes did not use these pre-signed resignation letters for these positions. Without these letters, the Mayor could suggest board members or commissioners be removed, but a process involving the city council would be required for their removal.
“If somebody is a board or commissioner he appointed in good faith and they are not carrying out responsibilities to his agenda, it does give him the ability to remove somebody,” Rotert said. “All of them have voluntarily agreed to sign these letters, we didn't have to twist anybody's arm to make that happen. But they are essentially his appointees and they serve at his pleasure.”
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