The Cherokee County Attorney’s Office and the City of Galena have reached a mutually agreeable resolution to the ongoing Kansas Open Meetings Act “KOMA” investigation by the County Attorney into the City of Galena. The investigation was prompted by the County Attorney’s Office receipt of over one hundred letters (the same letter was mass produced for signature) alleging the Mayor and Council Members of the City of Galena must have violated KOMA in order to reach a consensus at the regular council meeting held July 7, 2014, to pass ordinances 14-14 and 14-15 regarding the annexation of land an establishing a post-closure fund for the proposed landfill.
The Kansas Open Meetings Act was passed to ensure public confidence in government by increasing the access of the public to government and its decision-making processes. KOMA declares that it is the policy of Kansas “that meetings for the conduct of governmental affairs and the transaction of governmental business be open to the public.” The County Attorney is given authority under the statute to investigate KOMA complaints.
After receiving notice of the complaints, the Cherokee County Attorney opened an investigation into the matters and the investigation is ongoing. The investigation to this point and the facts discovered through the investigation have not proven a violation of KOMA. However, the City of Galena, which has been cooperative through the investigation, agreed to rescind its actions taken at the regular council meeting on July 7, 2014, and to re-open the issues for discussion and vote at special meeting to be scheduled.
The agreement reached comes with the recognition by both parties that transparency of government action and the confidence of the public in that transparency remain essential to our form of government. While the City of Galena continues to deny the allegations of a violation, both parties believe this resolution is in the best interests of the public body of Cherokee County and the City of Galena. By rescinding its action and re-opening the issues, the public concern of transparency of government action is addressed and the cost, in both time and expense, of a continued investigation and, potentially litigation through the District Court and Cherokee County Attorney’s Office are avoided. Additionally, the Galena City Council has agreed to KOMA training within 6 months. Again, something that is a win-win for all involved.
Nathan R. Coleman
Cherokee County Attorney.