For the first time since its creation in 1974, the board that governs the Riley County Police Department will have four women on it in 2021.
Manhattan City Commissioner Linda Morse and incoming Riley County Commissioner Kathryn Focke are the two elected representatives to the Law Board. BeAtta Stoney and Patricia Hudgins are the two citizen representatives. Morse and Stoney were both reappointed to their positions. It’s the first time women will make up the majority of the voting body.
Stoney and Hudgins were both nominated by the Manhattan City Commission. Outgoing law board member Wynn Butler explains the process for selecting new Law Board members.
“Every two years there’s a little bit of a rotation. We (the city) had two commissioners on last time and this time the county will have two because there are seven members, one’s always the county attorney and three are commissioners, (including) two from the city or two from the county and three by statute are supposed to be citizens,” he said.
Initially, the Riley County Commission had nominated just Commissioner John Ford to serve on the board for one year, along with two citizen nominees, but received push back from city officials including Commissioner Butler, to follow the state statute which requires three commissioners to serve on the board. At Monday’s Riley County Commission meeting Ford stated he disagreed with the statute.
“I feel like there’s a conflict of interest with that. You have a quorum of a governing body that has a vested interest and the other board that that quorum is sitting on,” Ford said.
Ford says he understands that having two of the three commissioners on the Law Board doesn’t violate the Kansas Open Meetings Act, since business is handled in an open meeting and through the process of executive sessions.
“It’s a board that this particular board funds and funds very very largely,” Ford said.
County Clerk Rich Vargo advised commissioners Monday, that even if there is disagreement over how state statute outlines the composition of the Law Board, they would need to comply and select two county commissioners and one citizen-at-large.
Riley County’s appointments in addition to Ford and Focke are Robert Ward who was reappointed to the citizen at-large position. Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson also continues on the board per state statute.
In a statement to KMAN late Tuesday, RCPD Director Dennis Butler said, “It’s a privilege to be part of this “first” for our Law Board. I look forward to working with the new members and continuing in the shared goals of providing the best possible service to Riley County citizens, visitors, students and workers who commute here to work.”