Jackson County Ballot Issues
By Kathy Feist
On August 3, 2010, Jackson County voters approved a revised County Charter that focused on ethical reforms and called for an automatic Charter review every 10 years that is brought before the public vote. With former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders now in prison for laundering money, former Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp resigned due to a sexual affair, and infighting between county legislators and County Executive Frank White, new Charter amendments are being placed before voters two years ahead of schedule. (Regardless of the outcome of this vote, Charter amendments will again be put to vote in 2020 in keeping with the law.) These Questions were approved by a majority of the county legislators and seek to reduce the County Executive’s powers, set term limits and increase salaries.
Question 1 would set term limits for members of the County Legislature to two terms in eight years, as well as give members a pay raise. County Legislators are currently making around $38,000 a year for a part time job. (In comparison, a Missouri State Senator makes about $35,000.) Legislators would like to increase the salary to $49,000 a year in order to attract candidates. Critics of this proposal point out that this would also include a higher retirement pension for current legislators ready to retire. The rest of the measures reduces the County Executive’s power to veto legislation. It also provides for the County Legislature’s approval on Executive appointments and budgets. In truth, Question 1 should be several separate Questions, not one. If you are in favor of one measure but against another, vote no. You will be given another opportunity to vote in a couple of years.
In this ballot measure, the County Executive would get a salary increase from around $145,000 to around $158,000 and serve only two terms. It would also require all personal taxes be paid prior to holding the Executive office, and that consultants hired by the Executive office must be approved by the the County Legislature.
This question limits the County Sheriff to three terms in office and puts the Sheriff in charge of running the county jail instead of the County Executive. The Sheriff would also receive a pay increase from around $104,000 to $159,000.
The Prosecuting Attorney would serve only three terms in 12 years. This question also returns COMBAT, an anti-drug/anti-crime agency, back to the Prosecuting Attorney’s office where it began, and out of the Executive’s office. The Prosecuting Attorney would also receive a pay increase from around $133,000 to $159,000..
Question 5 gives the County Legislature the authority to remove the County Executive’s legal adviser (the County Counselor) by simple majority. Instead, the County Executive would provide three names for the position from which the Legislature would pick. This measure would seemingly reduce overpriced contracts for legal advice.
Question 6 amends the qualifications of a judge of the municipal court to have at least three years’ experience as a judge rather than simply a law license and county residency.
This measure would make it illegal to run for a Jackson County office if the candidate already holds office at the federal, state or municipal level. If this measure passes, it would more than likely be challenged as unconstitutional.