Despite a ruling by Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett’s ruling against their petition, members of the Committee to Recall Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau have decided not to give up. Instead, just days after the negative ruling, the group released a press release saying they plan to refile the petition on different grounds. 

Last month, the committee filed a request for recall petition again Ranzau using his votes against several popular public health programs as grounds for the recall. The Kansas Statute governing recall of elected officials requires the petitioner to establish a grounds for the recall and one of the acceptable grounds is “failure to perform duties prescribed by law.”

For the recall effort to move forward, the law requires a review of the petition for “sufficiency.” For the recall of a County Commissioner, the District Attorney in the county is the person identified to rule on the “sufficiency” of the petition.

Ahead of the ruling, it was clear the recall group felt Bennett’s authority was limited to confirming the group’s establishment of grounds for the recall, and that his authority did not extend to ruling on the sufficiency of the grounds. Needless to say, they were surprised and disappointed when Bennett’s sufficiency ruling focused almost entirely on the sufficiency of their grounds for the petition.

The group leaders reconfirmed their opinion in a post-ruling press release. “It is not the role of the District Attorney to decide if the recall allegation is true or untrue. We resolved to not allow him to block a constitutional employment at the ballot box.

In their petition, the committee referred to Kansas statute establishing the powers of the County Commission. The 11th power states “The board of county commissioners of each county shall have the power, at any meeting: …To contract fro the protection and promotion of public health and welfare.” In what the committee members called “splitting hairs” Bennett’s ruling focuses on the difference between the “power” to act and the “duty” to act. The word duty is used in petition, versus power.

Where the word “power” gives the commission as a whole the power to act the statute does not obligate any commissioner a “duty” to act in one way or the other.

“Petitioners make very specific allegations, detailing facts related to three separate votes on health matters made by Commissioner Ranzau. But those specific allegations do not relate to any prescribed duty of the commissioner. Only the board of county commissioners as a collective whole has the power to contract related to public health and welfare. No corresponding duty exists, individually or collectively…”

The committee members say they will refile the petition on different grounds within weeks. They also resolved to file a Mandamus Action with the Kansas Supreme Court if Bennett rules against them again. The purpose of the Mandamus filing will be to determine if Bennett’s power includes the ability to rule on the sufficiency of the grounds identified in the petition.

“Recall petitions in particular are a fundamental and constitutional right of registered voters, therefore the issues that our petition raises should be of sufficient public concern for the Kansas Supreme Court to entertain if DA Bennett blocks our efforts again,” wrote the group in their press release. 

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