KC could spend $450,000 on lawyers to fight possible state law

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Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, left, and Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican from Parkville, during a January 11 hearing on Kansas City police funding needs.

The Kansas City Star

Kansas City plans to spend nearly half a million dollars to hire outside legal counsel to fight a bill that would require the city to increase its funding for the police department by 5 percent.

The city is currently obligated to give the police department, which is under state control, 20% of its annual general revenue. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican from Parkville, would require Kansas City to commit at least 25%.

The bill is a reaction to last year’s attempt by Lucas and a super majority of council members to reallocate millions of dollars to police funding. The Board of Police Commissioners sued, and a Jackson County judge ruled that the board violated state law.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas introduced legislation that would allow the city’s legal department to spend up to $450,000 to hire local and national lawyers to help overcome the Luetkemeyer measure.

He came out of Special Legal Review Committee Tuesday by a vote of 3 to 1 and will be heard in plenary session of the city council on Thursday. Councilor Heather Hall, District 1, voted no.

Jane Brown, general counsel for Lucas, told the committee that the order allows the city to prepare “for future actions if necessary” related to the bill.

“If we don’t move forward with anything, there’s no outside legal counsel and there’s no money being spent,” Brown said. “It’s just preparation for something that would negatively affect the city budget and many, many other city departments and departments.” So it’s always good to be prepared.

Lucas testified earlier this month before Missouri lawmakers, asking them not to increase the city’s demands.

“I know my own mistakes. We ended up having this discussion at a time when the political discourse was not good for anything related to policing and budgets,” said Lucas, who is the only locally elected member of the police board. “But what you didn’t see…is we were saying we were going to take that money from the police and turn it over to another organization or another department in Kansas City.”

He said he feared the legislation would give the police commission a “blank cheque” for spending without guarantees for local priorities.

If approved, the legislation is expected to win the approval of voters statewide due to a constitutional provision preventing lawmakers from requiring cities to spend more.

Luetkemeyer’s bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee this month and awaits floor debate. A similar version in the House, sponsored by Excelsior Springs Republican Doug Richey, was also the subject of a public hearing.

In November, the police commission passed a budget of $281 million. This budget guarantees $135 million for salary increases.

In Lucas’ testimony, he said the bill would result in lawsuits “because it claims to spend taxpayers’ money like airport, water and sewer, special utility taxes and funds for roads and infrastructure that the city cannot by law reallocate.

Luetkemeyer had previously said that claim was “misleading”.

“I think the point is that the city took advantage of the language that was written in 1939,” Luetkemeyer said. “And they’re basically playing voodoo math with the city budget to reduce the amount of money they’re supposed to spend on the police department.”

Kansas City Democratic Rep. Lauren Arthur said the bill currently doesn’t align with her priorities to “invest in proven anti-crime strategies like drug treatment, job training and housing.”

“This legislation also does not guarantee that police salaries in Kansas City will be at the level necessary to recruit and retain good officers, nor does it provide first responders with better access to mental health and trauma services. .”

The city council could approve spending without issuing tenders if it needs special expertise and is “in the best interests of the city”, according to the legislation.

The $450,000 would come from an unplanned portion of the city’s budget, meaning there is no cost increase.

Along with concerns about the impact on city services and departments, Brown said specific taxes that Kansas City voters have approved — such as the fire department tax or the Kansas City economic development sales tax. Central City – could also be affected.

Brown added that it wasn’t just a check for $450,000. The city would follow a procurement process and spend the money as needed once it was billed.

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Cortlynn Stark covers town hall with a focus on fairness for the Kansas City Star. She joined The Star in January 2020 as a breaking news reporter. Cortlynn studied journalism and Spanish at Missouri State University.


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