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Posted on: November 18, 2021

City Councilmember resigns, City Attorney explains next steps

CITY COUNCIL UPDATE

Councilmember and Mayor-Elect Mr. Tyler Graves has announced his resignation effective 7 p.m. on November 18, 2021.

Mayor Steven Ellis has asked for and received a legal opinion from Spring Hill City Attorney Charles Dunlay. 

Mr. Dunlay's legal opinion is as follows:

Councilmember Tyler Graves submitted his resignation as Councilmember for the City of Spring Hill effective 7:00pm today, November 18, 2021. Mr. Graves, who is the mayor-elect for the City of Spring Hill, Kansas informed Mayor Steven Ellis that he is relocating to Florida and will be moving out of the City in December 2021. As such, Mr. Graves will not be a qualified elector of the City of Spring Hill on January 10, 2022; he will not be qualified to be sworn as Mayor, serve as Mayor, or eligible to succeed Mayor Steven Ellis. See SHMC §1-103. Qualifications.; K.S.A. 14-109.

Mr. Graves’ resignation of his seat as City Councilmember, relocation from the City of Spring Hill, Kansas, and presumptive subsequent disqualification for the position of Mayor of the City of Spring Hill, Kansas create several issues regarding the manner of appointing his successor as Councilmember, his status as Mayor-Elect, the date of his ineligibility for the position of mayor, Mayor Ellis’ term, and the applicable processes for filling his seat as Councilmember, and, if indeed, he is no longer a qualified elector of the City of Spring Hill, the manner in which the position of mayor is to be filled under the Charter Ordinances of the City of Spring Hill and applicable Kansas statutes.

Mr. Graves’ resignation of his seat as City Councilmember is effective at the date and time specified in his resignation – at 7:00pm today, November 18, 2021. As of that time, his council seat shall be vacant. Pursuant to SHMC §1-102. D. 2., enacted by the adoption of Charter Ordinance No. 36 and Charter Ordinance No. 26:

2. Vacancy in City Council. In case of a vacancy in the council occurring by reason of resignation, death, or removal from office or from the city, the mayor, by and with the advice and consent of the remaining council members, shall appoint some qualified elector to fill the vacancy until the next election for that office.

SHMC §1-102. D. 2.; Charter Ordinance No. 36, Section Five; Charter Ordinance No. 26, Section 4. Thus, the Mayor may appoint a qualified elector of the City of Spring Hill, Kansas, upon the advice and consent of the City Council, to fulfill the term of Mr. Graves’ council seat. Mr. Graves’ resignation as councilmember results in a simple mayoral appointment subject to the consent of the City Council.

Mr. Graves’ future ineligibility to serve as his elected term for the office of mayor and the subsequent process to fill the office of mayor for the term of such office beginning the second Monday in January (January 10, 2022) is clearly established within the City’s Municipal Code, but the process requires more steps. Mr. Graves is the duly elected Mayor-Elect, but if he is no longer a qualified elector of the City of Spring Hill, Kansas on January 10, 2022, he will be disqualified from office as mayor. Nonetheless, the City can take no action concerning his eventual ineligibility, and he will not be technically disqualified from office until the second Monday in January. His successor, more accurately Mayor Ellis’ successor to the office of Mayor, cannot be determined until the newly elected councilmembers are qualified, seated, and elect one of their members as president of the council. This Memorandum sets forth the process under which the new mayor will be seated pursuant the applicable Spring Hill Municipal Code (SHMC) provisions, Charter Ordinances, and state laws.

The City of Spring, Kansas, as with all cities authorized by and operated under the laws of the State of Kansas pursuant to Article 12, Section 5, of the Constitution of the State of Kansas, may elect to exercise home rule powers to exempt itself from the from the provisions of Kansas statutes and/or adopt alternate provisions when such provisions are either state legislative enactments or a part thereof which are applicable to the City but are not uniformly applicable to all cities in the State of Kansas. In adopting Charter Ordinance Nos. 36 and 26, the City of Spring Hill, Kansas, pursuant to its home rule authority vested in the City by the State Constitution, as referenced above, elected to exempt itself from the provisions of K.S.A. 12-104a, K.S.A. 14-103, K.S.A. 14-207, and K.S.A. 14-204. Similarly, in adopting Charter Ordinance No. 30, the City elected to exempt itself from the application of K.S.A. 14-308 relating the vacancy of in the office of mayor or council members and the terms of successors appointed to fill such vacancies.

Moreover, upon designation as a city of the second class under Kansas law, the City of Spring Hill, Kansas adopted several Charter Ordinances, some later modified in whole or part by Charter Ordinance No. 36, relevant to Mr. Graves’ resignation, appointment of a successor to his council seat, term of such successor, ineligibility to serve as mayor, Mayor Ellis’ term and duties, successor to Mayor-Elect Graves, term of such successor, and appointment authority to the successor of any subsequently vacant councilmember’s office. Charter Ordinance No. 25 exempted the City from certain terms and provisions of K.S.A. 14-101. Charter Ordinance No. 26, as referenced above, exempted the City from certain terms and provisions of K.S.A. 14-103 and K.S.A. 14-207 and provided alternate provisions related the division of the City into wards, establishment of precincts, election of the city council and mayor, terms of office, and vacancies.

Charter Ordinance No. 28 exempted the City from certain terms and provisions of K.S.A. 14-201 and adopted substitute provisions concerning the president of the city council.

The terms of office for both the mayor and city councilmembers for the City of Spring Hill, Kansas are for four years or until their successors are qualified. SHMC §1-102. B. and C.; Charter Ordinance No. 36, Section Two, B. The mayor and newly elected or re-elected councilmembers take office upon qualification on the second Monday of January – January 10, 2022, for this election cycle. Id. Ordinarily, on the second Monday of January following the election for the office of mayor, the outgoing mayor opens the City Council meeting and presides over the meeting until the newly certified as elected or re-elected councilmembers and mayor are qualified and sworn to their respective offices, the governing body goes into recess for a reception, the now qualified successors assume their positions, and the council elects one of its members as “President of the Council.” See SHMC §1-102. B. and C.; SHMC §1-103.; SHMC §1-112.; Charter Ordinance No. 36; Charter Ordinance No. 30; Charter Ordinance No. 28; Charter Ordinance No. 26, in pertinent part. Pursuant to SHMC §1-112. President of Council: Election; Powers and Duties., as incorporated into the Municipal Code upon adoption of Charter Ordinance Nos. 28, 30, and 36, the newly seated, “City Council shall, at its regular meeting following any city election, elect one of its members as “President of the Council.”

Since Mr. Graves will not be qualified or sworn in on January 10, 2022, Mayor Ellis’ term ends upon the qualification of his successor. SHMC §1-102. B. and C. The elected and qualified councilmembers will be seated, however, and their predecessors’ terms will end. The mayor’s successor, however, will not be qualified. As referenced above, the current mayor, Mayor Ellis, is required to serve his term until the qualification of his successor. SHMC §1-102. B. and C. (further Charter Ordinance citation omitted). The City Council shall then elect one of its members as

President of the Council. In the event of a vacancy in the office of mayor, “the president of the council shall become mayor until the regular election for that office and a vacancy shall occur in the office of the council member becoming mayor.” SHMC §1-102. D. 1.; Charter Ordinance No. 36, Section Five; Charter Ordinance No. 26, Section 4. Please note, the “President of the Council” not an elected office by the voters, an appointed office, or an “office”; to the contrary, the position of President of the Council is a member elected by the city councilmembers at the City Council meeting on the second Monday of January following a city election. See SHMC §1-112. a.

Following the election of one of the city councilmembers to the position of “President of the Council” on January 10, 2022, the President of the Council, pursuant to SHMC §1-102. D. 1. and the Charter Ordinances referenced herein, shall become the mayor of the City of Spring Hill, Kansas, sworn to such office, and a vacancy shall occur in the office of the councilmember becoming mayor. Id. Mayor Ellis’ term will end upon the qualification of his successor. SHMC §1-102. B. & C. The new mayor will be seated to serve the term for which Mr. Graves was elected Mayor of the City of Spring Hill, Kansas. SHMC §1-102. D. 1. The new mayor, by and with the advice and consent of the remaining councilmembers shall appoint a qualified elector to fill the vacancy until the next election for the office to which he or she is appointed. SHMC §1-102. D. 2.; Charter Ordinance No. 36, Section Five; Charter Ordinance No. 26, Section 4. Please note, the mayor is not obligated to fill the vacancy immediately and may request interested parties submit letters of interest or qualification. Following the seating of the mayor – the remaining councilmembers shall select one of their members to the position of president of the council. As the position of president of the council is not an “office,” the City Council may remove or elect the president of the council at a subsequent meeting upon the appointment and qualification of additional councilmembers.

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