Paul Snider violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office announced last week. Snider is the chair of the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District Board and a candidate for the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees.
Parks board members Mike Pirner and Leslee Rivarola filed a complaint with the AG’s office after Snider privately sought approval to be reinstated as chair of the parks board, forgoing a tradition of rotating through the board.
He sent Pirner a Facebook message saying he’d spoken to everyone on the board but he and Rivola, and the rest of the board supported Snider taking a second turn as chair. The state’s open meetings statute requires that such discussions among a majority of a board take place at publicly-noticed meetings.
After receiving the Facebook message from Snider, Pirner says he urged Snider not to proceed. Instead, he says, Snider got his ducks in a row and rammed through his bid for a second term as chair.
“Government shouldn’t ever line up the ducks like that,” Pirner says. According to Pirner, Snider rounded up his votes in private and held a sham vote in public.
“I don’t get it if it’s for chairman or on another vote. It calls into question everything else we’re doing,” Pirner says.
The parks board meetings are lightly attended by members of the public. That, according to Pirner, makes having accurate minutes reflecting how the board reached decisions all the more important.
The Johnson County parks board is unique in the state of Kansas. A board of appointed officials oversees the county parks by state statute. It is the only entity of its kind in Kansas. With limited oversight from the elected Johnson County Board of Commissioners, parks board members have the authority to tax property. Kansas voters approved the board’s creation in 1954 with a margin of less than 100 votes.
The parks attorney argued with the AG’s office that the chairmanship is a ceremonial position that doesn’t really matter.
“If it’s ceremonial, why does Snider care?” Pirner asks. “He cares because he wanted it on his resume to be on at all of these ribbon cuttings.”
A few months later, Snider announced his candidacy for Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees. Parks board member Nancy Wallerstein is serving as his campaign treasurer.
In an email to parks board members, Snider said he is a strong advocate of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.
“I never dreamed that simply calling colleagues to see how they would feel about me serving a second term as chair would be viewed as a violation of that act,” Snider wrote.
Snider was appointed to the parks board by county commissioner Steve Klika. County commissioner Jason Osterhaus appointed Pirner. Rivarola was appointed by county commissioner Michael Ashcraft, and Wallerstein was appointed by county commissioner Ron Shaffer.
Snider is one of seven candidates vying for four spots on the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees. The other candidates include incumbents Jerry Cook, Lee Cross and Henry Sandate as well as Benjamin Hodge, Angelina Lawson, and Chris Roesel. The election is Nov. 7.