Ultimately, Jackson County voters approved three of the seven County Charter changes on the ballot Tuesday.
Two of the seven ballot questions had been too close to call late Tuesday with precincts in Kansas City still to be counted. Those two included pay raises and term limits for county legislators and the county executive, and those two were rejected – but voters decisively approved raises and term limits for the county prosecutor and sheriff, shifted control of the jail back to the sheriff and kept the COMBAT program in the prosecutor's office.
Voters also approved diminished powers for the county counselor and turned down a change for county municipal court judge requirements and barring anyone currently in municipal, state or federal office from running for a county office.
Outgoing Legislator Greg Grounds of Blue Springs, the main architect of the proposed amendments, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Tuesday evening, with results not yet finalized but some of them apparent, said he and other legislators that backed putting the changes on the ballot simply had the goal of letting the people decide.
“It looked like people viewed each one on its own,” Grounds said. “The votes were different on each question.”
County Executive Frank White Jr. has said he’ll convene a charter review commission next year, so all of the rejected questions – and other issues – can be discussed and potentially go back to the voters.
Here is a breakdown of the seven ballot questions:
• Question 1 would have limited county legislators to two four-year terms and raised their pay from $34,881 a year to about $49,000, as well as enacted tighter rules on accepting gifts and being up to date on their taxes. That question failed with 50.48 percent of no votes – a margin of 2,266 votes from more than 236,000.
• Question 2 would have limited the county executive to two terms, given him a raise from $145,350 to $158,848 and imposed requirements that the executive live in the county and be up to date on taxes. That question also failed with 50.87 percent of no votes – a margin of less than 4,200 votes from more than 239,000.
• Question 3 limits the sheriff to three terms, raises the sheriff’s pay from $103,771 to $158,848 and requires that the sheriff live in the county and gives the sheriff control of the County Detention Center. The county executive has been in charge of the jail, and safety and staffing concerns there have led to a string of lawsuits. County officials have discussed a possible a new jail.
That ballot question received 62.21 percent approval among nearly 250,000 votes, including almost two-thirds approval from Kansas City voters.
• Question 4, which moves the $23-million-a-year COMBAT program to the prosecutor’s office, out of the executive’s office, also passed. Legislators had already made that move, but this vote writes it into the charter. COMBAT funds a wide range of programs to curb drugs and violence. The prosecutor will be limited to three terms, receives a raise from $133,432 to $158,848 and is required to live in the county and be up to date on taxes. Also, attorneys and investigators in the prosecutor's office into the county’s merit system for pay and benefits.
That question received 55.61 percent approval among nearly 238,000 votes, including 60 percent approval in Kansas City.
• Question 5 limits the power of the county counselor to enter into contracts for outside legal services, limits that office’s power to file lawsuits involving the Legislature and gives the Legislature the power to remove the counselor. It passed with 53.4 percent approval among 234,700 votes.
• Question 6 failed with 53.74 percent no votes among more than 231,000 votes. It would have added a requirement that a judge on the County Municipal Court has to have served as a municipal court judge in a city in this county for at least three years.
• Question 7 would have barred anyone currently in municipal, state or federal office – except a county office – from running for a county office. It failed with 53.79 percent no votes among more than 234,600 votes.