KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An Independence city councilman is suing the Jackson County Election Board, a city of Independence clerk and the estate of Councilwoman Karen DeLuccie after losing a bid for re-election.
Mike Huff was one of four people running for the two Independence Councilmember At-Large positions in the April 5 general election. He came in third place behind Karen DeLuccie and Jared Fears.
In the lawsuit filed in Jackson County Circuit Court on Thursday, Mike Huff alleges DeLuccie “had become incapacitated” before the Independence City Clerk certified the election and declared her the winner at 10 a.m. on April 12.
That was the same day DeLuccie passed away.
DeLuccie was diagnosed with lung cancer in February. She served as an at-large member since 2014.
The lawsuit claims the Jackson County Election Board “should not have certified her as a winner for the April 5 general election, and the Independence City Clerk should not have issued a certificate of election to Ms. DeLuccie.”
Huff wants the Jackson County Circuit Court to “declare that Karen DeLuccie was not a qualified candidate for election, due to her incapacity, and requests the Court implement Independence City Charter Section 6.8 declaring Mike Huff the winner of the second At-Large City Council Member seat for the City of Independence.”
Independence City Charter Section 6.8 reads:
“Any candidate for whom a nominating petition is filed, may withdraw as a candidate by filing with the city clerk, not more than five (5) days after the filing deadline, a statement of withdrawal duly signed and acknowledged by said candidate before some person authorized to administer oaths and affirmations. The city clerk shall immediately notify the board of election commissioners of such withdrawal. The name of such person complying herewith shall not appear on the ballot. There shall be no provision for withdrawal of a successful primary candidate before the general election. Should death, incompetency, or removal from city or any other disqualifying condition occur to any successful primary candidate between the primary and general election there shall be no reopening of the election and the surviving candidate shall be declared the winner.”
Prior to the filing of the lawsuit, City Manager Zach Walker told the KSHB 41 I-Team the city would hold a special election in August.
In response to the lawsuit, Sara Zorich, one of two directors for the Jackson County Election Board, said "we certified our election results on Tuesday, April 12th. Our official results are on our website. The board has not had a chance to review this lawsuit and cannot comment at this time."
Huff sent the following statement to KSHB 41:
This is a time of tragedy and pain for the family of Karen DeLuccie and for all those, like me, who will miss her fierce advocacy for the citizens of Independence. The speed with which these tragic events befell us caused the Jackson County Election Board and the City Clerk to issue certifications that were unlawful under Missouri election law and the City Charter. But the law must be followed, in good times and bad. Because our late colleague was not competent to hold office at the time the certifications were issued, the City Charter required that the next candidate on the ballot be declared to have won the seat. I look forward to a quick judicial resolution of this matter that will avoid the cost and trouble of an unnecessary special election.
The I-Team continues to reach out to those named in the lawsuit. We will update this story as those responses come in.
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