Archive for Thursday, June 23, 2005

City council meeting violated open meetings law

June 23, 2005

A June 2 meeting by the Baldwin City Council where two land acquisition decisions were made violated the Kansas Open Meetings Law. The Baldwin City Signal was not notified of the meeting, as required.

"I guess I owe you an apology," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "I could see how it could be seen that way (violating open meetings law)."

In his haste to get the special meeting together, Dingman said he neglected to notify the Signal. It was not intentional, he said, and went against his standard practices.

"Aside from requirements, I've always had the policy of notification," he said. "In getting things ready, I didn't notify (the Signal). I recognize the interest in the items that were discussed at the meeting."

Dingman notified the Attorney General's Office of the violation Wednesday afternoon. The Signal had learned of the meeting earlier. Sanctions by the Attorney General's Office were unknown at press time.

"We reported it to them," Dingman said.

The Signal called the AG's office Wednesday and was told the violation would be investigated.

All five council members were present at the 11 a.m. meeting in City Hall. It was immediately moved into executive session. After an hour, the council returned to open meeting and voted unanimously on two land-related items.

The first was to not act on an option to purchase the Allen property, 43 acres located north of Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center on U.S. Highway 56. The city had taken an option on the land two years ago with the idea of establishing a business park. Two years worth of options cost the city $21,000.

The second vote was to authorize Dingman and City Attorney Matt Hoy to enter negotiations for the purchase of the land where the Baldwin City Municipal Golf Course is located. Kathy Walker owns the land after the death of her mother.

Dingman said Walker wanted to know by June 3 if the city was interested in purchasing the property near the Midland Railway Depot that currently has a nine-hole sand-green golf course on it. That's why the meeting was hurriedly put together.

"It was to meet her time frame before she got a broker to put the property on the market," said Dingman. "That was the reason for the meeting that day. She wanted to know if there was interest or not."

Although discussions were in executive session on both matters, Dingman acknowledged the consensus of the council on the Allen property was that the business park wasn't going to work there because of the proximity to the elementary school.

"I think that's ultimately true," he said. "The terminology it's not going to work is more accurate."

Dingman declined to go into specifics on the golf course property regarding possible uses there, but did confirm that it would be a recreation area.

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