Jackson County voters approved a newly revised County Charter when they went to the polls August 3, 2010. The revised Charter takes effect August 23, 2010.
In March Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders appointed a task force to review the County Charter and make recommendations for updating it. The County Legislature reviewed those recommendations in May and approved placing a newly updated Charter before the voters on the August 3 ballot.
Key updates in the newly revised Charter include:
Good Government Initiatives
No Bid Professional Services Contracts – The Charter will limit the County Executive’s power to award professional service contracts by requiring a competitive bid process for any contract exceeding $5,000. This ensures the best service provider is selected to perform work on behalf of Jackson County. In the past, there have been no limits in the Charter for the Executive in awarding professional service contracts.
Definition of Discrimination – The Charter will broaden what constitutes "discrimination," adding protection to groups previously not protected by the Charter. The revised Charter will add protections against discrimination related to gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and pregnancy status. By prohibiting discrimination based on any of these issues, the revised Charter will exceed state and federal protections.
More Efficient, Accessible and Transparent Government – The Charter will now allow the County to create a single entity to which citizens can submit complaints regarding the conduct of County officers, employees, volunteers and elected officials by consolidating the Ethics Commission with the Human Relations and Citizen Complaints Commission. This combined commission will have a fully staffed office.
Dual Reporting – The newly revised Charter requires any ethics complaint filed against the Executive or a member of the County Legislature to be automatically forwarded to the State Ethics Commission for review and additional oversight.
Ongoing Charter Review Process
Automatic Review Every 10 Years – The Charter will provide for an automatic Charter review every 10 years. The review will be conducted by a Citizen's Charter Review Commission. This periodic review requires that an effort be made to keep the Charter updated and adjusted to allow for better County governance. The Charter previously included no automatic process for reviews.
November 12, 2009: County Executive Sanders called for forming a panel to review the Constitutional Home Rule Charter, which voters first approved in 1970, during his State of the County Address. He said, "Every 10 years, we are allowed this opportunity to examine our County Charter. 2010 is one of those years. I want the 2010 County Charter [task force] to look specifically at making permanent our initiatives surrounding ethics reform and limiting the powers afforded current and future County Executives."
March 15, 2010: County Executive Sanders appoints a seven-member task force to conduct a comprehensive review of the Charter and make recommendations for updating it. He names former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes the panel's chairperson.
April 7, 2010 and April 14, 2010: The Charter Task Force conducts public hearings to gain insights from citizens regarding the County Charter.
May 10, 2010: On behalf of the Task Force, Barnes presents the panel's recommendations to the Jackson County Legislature.
May 24, 2010: After conducting their own public hearing on the subject, Jackson County Legislators vote to place the revised County Charter on the August 3, 2010 ballot.