A meeting called by Johnson County commissioner Shirley Allenbrand in which another commissioner was disinvited and other stakeholders advised not to attend is raising transparency and Open Meetings Act concerns.

The 6th District commissioner called the meeting among interested parties to discuss the reconstruction of 199th Street in the southwestern part of the county to accommodate large trucks and 18-wheelers. 3rd District Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara, a critic of the project in which she and others have raised safety concerns, was told of the meeting, then in her words, “disinvited’ later. Southwest Zoning Board member Kenneth Klingensmith says he was told by County Commission Chairman Ed Eilert since the Allenbrand meeting was not considered a “public meeting” there was no need for his attendance.

Eilert explains such meetings with county officials are commonplace:

“Elected officials often informally meet with constituents, staff, experts and others to gather facts on issues of general public interest. Who attends such informal meetings is up to the elected official who schedules the meeting.”

O’Hara says truck traffic will likely be diverted to her district from Allenbrand’s but she and her constituents should be able to attend and voice their opinions.

Also kept away was area resident Frank Moley, also against the project. He recounts what happened:

“When I heard about this meeting, I immediately contacted Commissioner O’Hara for information on it and was told the times, despite Eilert telling people there wasn’t a meeting and Allenbrand staying silent. After Eilert chastised me publicly at the last BOCC meeting, he confirmed that he knew about the meeting and had sent emails on the topic. When I got to the Admin Building, I was informed it was a private meeting and I was not allowed in, and neither was Commissioner O’Hara.”

Moley is critical of the actions of the 6th District commissioner:

“So not only is Allenbrand doing a disservice to her well-respected family name in this county, but she is going against her own campaign promises of transparency. There should be no meetings about 199th and the travesty of converting a rural and residential road to a truck route that doesn’t include impacted citizens. These dealings are clearly backed by people who neither reside in this county nor pay taxes in this county. She is essentially disenfranchising the voters of this county by not giving them the information that she is trying to push through.”

Moley saved some criticism of Commission Chairman Eilert:

“The underhanded dealings of this commission under Eilert’s leadership are unethical, irresponsible, and downright wrong. They spend money we don’t have, increase taxes when the economy was suffering from their response to COVID-19, and ignore the taxpayers and the citizens that are impacted by their decisions.”

Moley has requested an opinion from Attorney General Derek Schmidt about the 199th Street Project in general as well as the actions of Commissioner Allenbrand.

Commissioner O’Hara also raised transparency concerns:

“I was shocked and greatly disappointed by the lack of an open and transparent process.  Closed-door meetings are not how business should be conducted in Johnson County.”

The Sentinel reached to Commissioner Allenbrand for comment, but none was received.

(Editor’s Note: the original version of this story said Ed Eilert did not respond to our questions.  He later sent a response that has been added to the story.)

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