Roeland Park councilor takes exception to ‘faith-based’ question about branding committee credentials

Benedictine College, which is the preferred bidder on a branding project for Roeland Park, has a location in the city.
Benedictine College, which is the preferred bidder on a branding project for Roeland Park, has a location in the city on Roe Blvd.

A Roeland Park proposal to hire Benedictine College for a branding project led to a defense of the selection by two of the committee members – Councilors Michael Rhoades and Ryan Kellerman – in response to questions from residents and other council members.

Rhoades took particular exception to a question asking for “full disclosure on conflict of interest – faith-based or otherwise.”

Michael Rhoades
Michael Rhoades

“I’ve got a huge problem with that,” Rhoades said. “I think that’s a discriminatory statement.” Benedictine is a Catholic institution, Rhoades noted, as are Bishop Miege and St. Agnes schools in Roeland Park. Rhoades is a Bishop Miege graduate and his children attend St. Agnes.

Rhoades said he had conferred with the professor leading the project and been assured “religion is not going to be in the imagery.”

“There is not a conflict of interest with anyone up here,” Rhoades said. “That is a litmus test for someone’s religion,” he said. “I’ve got a huge problem with that.”

He also defended his credentials for being on the committee, during the several minutes he spoke on the issue. “There is no problem with the decision I made.” The Benedictine proposal was submitted as a pro bono project and Rhoades said the cost was important in the decision.

Kellerman earlier had read off responses to more than 20 questions submitted to the committee. Other councilors asked that the responses be in writing and Mayor Joel Marquardt at one point asked for a written report saying, “we are not having a very good discussion here.”

Michael Poppa, the third councilor on the committee (along with a planning commission member), said he had not voted for the Benedictine bid. “The prevailing vote was for cost and cost alone,” Poppa said. After Kellerman read off his answers, Poppa said Kellerman “does not speak for me” and gave a revised version on a number of questions.

The proposal will be back in front of the council next month when a Benedictine representative has been invited to attend.