Correcting an oversight and responding to public criticism, Johnson County Kansas Government will now administer oaths of office to all public officials.
Officials were reluctant to acknowledge the mistake in not requiring oaths to be signed; technically a violation of Kansas Statute 75-4308.
Oath required for public officers and employees. Before entering upon the duties of his or her office or employment, each person to be employed by the state or any agency thereof or by any county, city or other municipality of the state including any school, college or university supported in whole or in part by public funds collected under any tax law of the state or any municipality thereof shall be required to subscribe in writing to the oath set out in K.S.A.
Of primary interest to those calling out the county for a lack of transparency and adherence to statutes were the Planning Commission, and two little-known bodies, the Southwest Consolidated Zoning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals. In February, Planning Commission members signed oaths and Cynthia Dunham of the County Legal Department assures the same in the near future for the other two:
“Johnson County is in the process of administering oaths of office to the members of the Southwest Consolidated Zoning Board and the Board of Zoning Appeals, which should be completed within the next 30 days.”
Johnson County resident Joyce Whittier spearheaded the months-long effort to bring attention to this issue in an effort to promote transparency and accountability in government. She remains a critic of government operations in Olathe:
”Regarding the fact that none of the members of the Planning Commission signed an oath of office until February 22 says a lot about the county’s Legal Department and about the Chairman of the Planning Commission. These individuals are charged with upholding Kansas laws, yet they hadn’t deemed it necessary to require the appointed officials of various zoning boards to sign an oath of office until I started filing KORA requests asking for them. Frankly, it’s too little and too late. These people should have been sworn in when they first took office, but they weren’t. It’s the responsibility of each agency to maintain copies of the oaths, but they have not done so. The public has a right to know that our elected and appointed officers and employees not only know what the Kansas laws are but also that they comply with them.”
“I can assure you that neither the Planning Commission or the Board of County Commissioners have been transparent about what they are doing. In order to get videos of the meetings of the Planning Commission or documents mentioned in the minutes, I had to file multiple KORA requests. If the county was interested in transparency, I would not have had to do that. They could be transparent, but they have chosen not to be, and that is deliberate. They do not want the public to know what they’re doing.”