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Prairie Village residents file 9th recall petition against mayor, district attorney signs off

Prairie Village recall petition
Posted at 10:33 PM, May 30, 2024

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Shockey Consulting.

In the past 15 years in Johnson County, Prairie Village is only the second city to get the district attorney's approval for a recall petition.

Residents filed a recall petition in an effort to remove Prairie Village Mayor Eric Mikkelson.

They claim he used public money to pay a consulting firm against taxpayers who were trying to remove him from office last year.

In a letter from Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, his office found the petitioners had sufficient legal grounds to move forward, stating "it's a crime to misuse and spend public funds for private political purposes".

"One of the questions people ask is, 'Do we analyze whether or not the factors supporting a recall are true or not?' That is not my job," Howe said.

The recent petition is the ninth submitted to the DA's office from Prairie Village residents since last April.

The others didn't receive approval because of formatting or language.

Mikkelson was unavailable for an interview but shared a statement with KSHB 41.

The allegations in the petition are false. There was no wrongdoing, misconduct or misuse of city funds.

As to the false allegations, the District Attorney stated that he “does not pass on the credibility of the allegations…[and] does not determine the truth or falsity of the allegations." In other words, any three residents can fabricate misconduct allegations to start a political recall.

Beyond the personal destructive impact to me and my family, there are sad collateral impacts for all from these abusive smear tactics.

They erode local democracy's ability to function, consume time and resources from our city and diminish our ability to focus on our core issues - public safety, police, streets, parks and infrastructure. These tactics discourage volunteer public service, waste taxpayer dollars, damage staff morale and divide the community.

In addition, this particular petition seeks to deter your local government from communicating with its residents about city processes and policies. Effective, professional communication is another core function of good government, especially when facing disinformation.

Over 94% of Prairie Village voters voted for me to serve. I will need help from courageous residents ready to stand up now against sown chaos and lies.

We can have different policy opinions. This toxic character assassination, however, threatens the best part of Prairie Village, namely the friendly, mutually respectful fabric of our social and civic community.

Edward Greim, an attorney representing the citizens, showed KSHB 41 emails that are also displayed on a website created to gain support for the petition.

The emails reveal a consulting firm called Shockey may have been involved in assisting the city with handling the petition.

Greim also obtained invoices from Shockey during the time emails were exchanged with city officials that amounted to more than $10,000.

"They [the residents] were surprised to learn that the city was actually using taxpayer resources against the taxpayers," Greim said.

Ultimately, the final decision on whether the claims are justified won't be up to anyone but voters in Prairie Village.

"There's no need for this to be a bitter or adversarial process," Greim said. "This is a 12,000 person jury essentially to review facts and make a decision by signing the petition and casting a vote."

The mayor has a right to appeal the petition. The group efforting a recall must get 4,000 signatures from registered voters before it can be included on November's ballot.

Shockey Consulting provided the following statement, which reads in full:

Shockey Consulting is a local community engagement and planning firm that was hired to help communicate highly complex policy issues around housing and form of government. Our goal was to offer residents what they deserve -- clarity and transparency. We were hired by the city administrator -- not the Mayor -- and were NOT hired to mitigate efforts to recall the mayor. Shockey followed state law in our scope of work and activities as we have for 26 years to cities throughout the region. The services we provided followed state statute. (Kansas Attorney General Opinion 93–1 25 states that public funds may be expended to educate and inform on matters to be voted on by the electorate.) We were hired to supplement the part-time public information officer and help staff to present neutral information about complex public policy issues to enhance transparency in the community.

To quote District Attorney, Steve Howe, “it is a crime to misuse and spend public funds for private political purposes.” He goes on to say that his job is only to determine whether misuse of public funds is grounds for recall. He clarifies that he does not decide if that the misuse of funds actually happened. “In conducting the review, the county or district attorney does not determine the truth or falsity of the allegations.” Cline v. Tittel, 20 Kan. app. 2d 695, 701, 891 P.2d 1137 (1995).”