Roeland Park City Council runs into conflict on more issues than animal control ordinance

Mayor Joel Marquardt spoke about the conflict over chair of an ad hoc committee while Councilors Ryan Kellerman and Megan England listen.
Mayor Joel Marquardt spoke about the conflict over chair of an ad hoc committee while Councilors Ryan Kellerman, Megan England and Teresa Kelly listen.

Roeland Park this week removed its ban on pit bulls in a revised animal control ordinance, but it was far from the most controversial item on the council’s agenda. The council ran into conflict on two other subjects: the chairmanship of a negotiating committee for the city administrator’s contract and the appointment of a spot on the city board of zoning appeals.

The council’s newest member, Ryan Kellerman, who took office in December after winning a special election to fill an unexpired term, was in the middle of both disputes. Kellerman contended that he should chair the ad hoc negotiating team because that has traditionally been a role for the chair of administration committee. Kellerman took over as administration chair on his election because Mel Croston, whose seat he filled after her resignation, had been chair.

However, Councilor Jennifer Gunby, who became acting administration chair after Croston left, had also been chairing the evaluation and contract groups. Kellerman at one point said not allowing him to be chair must be like a form of hazing of the new member. “I don’t approve of hazing,” he said, asking that he remain chair of the ad hoc group.

Mayor Joel Marquardt said he thought it was important to have someone with more experience handle the negotiations, a sentiment shared by Teresa Kelly. Kellerman asked to be shown an ordinance that would back up Gunby chairing the committee, but City Attorney Neil Shortlidge said the ad hoc chair was not a question of ordinance. “If there is going to be this much debate about it, you might as well vote on it,” Shortlidge said.

Eventually, the council did come to a vote with Kellerman, Michael Rhodes and Becky Fast voting to have Kellerman as chair, a move the other councilors opposed. Those three opposed a subsequent successful vote to name Gunby chair of the committee. The city administrator’s evaluation is complete and a new contract is being negotiated.

Later, Kellerman and Councilor Megan England, who both represent Ward 3, disagreed over the appointment of a board of zoning appeals member, each backing a different candidate. England wanted long-time board member Doug Long replaced by Deborah Walden. Usually, the two ward representatives agree on board appointments and those are presented for council approval.

At one point during the discussion, council president Marek Gliniecki intervened, saying it was getting too personal after England and Kellerman were describing their objections to the other’s preferred candidate. When England said it would be good to have a woman on the BZA, Kellerman said, “I am offended when you say we need a woman on that board. It is sexist.”

A motion to appoint Walden was defeated and Long was reappointed on a split vote with Gunby, England and Kelly voting against the re-appointment.