I cherish conducting the public's business in a transparent manner. As both an entrepreneur and policymaker I embrace transparency, it's just part of the fabric of who I am. Transparency in government means being truthful, open, and inclusive about what you are doing.
Part of the challenge I face in running for Mayor of Olathe is that I must differentiate myself from the current appointed Mayor of Olathe, John Bacon, who is completing the term of Mayor Michael Copeland who died unexpectedly in 2020. I must differentiate myself without seeming like a jerk. John is a good man who has stepped up to help us after our tragic loss of Mayor Mike. Without seeming ungrateful, my goal today is to point out the vastly different levels of transparency that voters can expect from a Mayor Bacon administration, versus a Mayor Felter administration.
In the chart below A=Felter, B=Bacon.
Under my leadership, Transparency will be embraced and encouraged. Under Mayor Bacon's leadership he has done nothing to open up the governmental processes and shine a light on the business being conducted.
The best and freshest contrast in transparency I can offer voters is to consider how filling the vacancy of a school board member position is handled, versus filling the vacancy of a city council member position.
For Olathe Public Schools, under my leadership, when there is a board vacancy on the school board, the process to fill the vacancy is conducted in public. Every applicant is published on the district website, and all applicants are invited to participate in the interview process, which is also conducted in a public meeting. All board members are included in the interview process and are a part of the decision making that ultimately fills the vacant position for the remainder of the term. As examples of this transparent and inclusive process, I offer the filling of the vacancy of Amy Martin’s board seat when she resigned prior to the end of her term in June 2019, and most recently my resignation in March 2023. Both times the policy/procedure for the school board was transparent, inclusive, truthful, and communicative and embraced participation of the public.
In contrast, for the city council, following council codified procedure, the mayor establishes a three person committee, to review all applications, possibly conduct an interview or two, and to bring a nominee forward to the entire council for approval/disapproval. This committee of three (the mayor and two hand picked council members), behind closed doors selects a person to nominate to fill the vacancy. Having served on the city council for over 28 years, and voted in support of this process, Mayor Bacon embraces conducting business out of public view where a small number of council members select a nominee for appointment.
Due to KOMA (Kansas Open Meetings Act) restrictions this system excludes any dialog between council members that aren’t on the three person committee, and precludes and input of any kind from non-committee members. This secretive and exclusionary system has been fully embraced by Mayor Bacon, and led to an intense exchange when long-time council member Marge Vogt asked the mayor whether the public would have access to information when the council was filling Larry Cambell's Ward 1 vacancy:
"I’ve had a couple of calls, and individuals were interested about the people that had applied, as well as who are being interviewed, and if that information is publicly available for them to review,” Vogt said. “I can give you an update right now,” Bacon replied, “it is not.” Bacon said the committee would be ready to make a nomination to the council at the next regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 15. Candidate interviews are ongoing in private meetings. “That’s all the information that we have out there right now,” he continued. “OK, if they want more information,” Vogt said, “it should be available because of the public...” “It will be live and public on the 15th of this month,” Bacon said, interrupting Vogt. “If a council member wants that information,” Vogt started, before she was interrupted again. “They’ll have to wait until the 15th,” he said.
You can watch the exchange here (48:20 mark): https://olatheks.new.swagit.com/videos/153885?place=holder&Mode2=Video
The established system is the antithesis of transparency and simply must be changed. Citizens and all elected officials on the city council should have access to a list of the applicants, be permitted to provide feedback. This exclusionary process must be changed to be held in an open meeting where the public may witness and participate in the process and all elected council members are able to participate actively in selecting the temporary appointed replacement for a vacancy.
I respectfully ask for your vote on November 7th. A vote for Felter is a vote for transparency.