Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. has vetoed an attempt to move the county’s Combat program out of control of his office, calling the move illegal under the County Charter.
White’s office announced the veto Wednesday evening, nine days after the County Legislature voted to shift Combat to the County Prosecutor’s office and just within the 10-day window for a veto. It appears legislators have the votes to override the veto. They need six of the nine votes on the Legislature, and eight voted in favor Dec. 11.
Combat is paid for through a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1989 and re-authorized several times since. The $22 million a year pays for a wide range of anti-drug and anti-violence programs. Legislators point out that Combat initially was in the prosecutor's office and only in more recent years was moved over to the county executive.
White’s office released a memo from the Graves Garrett law firm in Kansas City with the conclusion that the ordinance legislators passed is not lawful.
“The ordinance violates the Charter and, even if adopted, would be void,” writes Edward D. Greim, a partner at Graves Garrett.
Among other things, Greim’s memo argues that the power to organize the county’s executive functions rests with the county executive. The Legislature can disapprove of his moves but not initiate moves on its own. The ordinance, the memo says, also unlawfully transfers purchasing agent power and unlawfully transfers the power to appoint a Combat director.
“Those powers are neither the Legislature’s to grant nor the Prosecuting Attorney’s to wield,” the memo says.
The Combat dispute has gotten caught up in the broader conflict over the budget. Legislators have taken out funding for the salaries of two of White’s top aides, including the one who oversees Combat.
It’s not clear when legislators might take up White’s veto. They held what was to have been their last meeting of the year last Friday but also say they expect White to veto the budget they passed that day. They are expected to take up both items at a meeting perhaps next week.