Roeland Park City Council divided on removing mayor’s ability to break tie vote in council president election

Erin Thompson after being elected council president in Roeland Park.
Erin Thompson after being elected council president in Roeland Park in May. File photo.

The Roeland Park City Council Monday split on removing the mayor’s ability to break a tie vote in an election for council president, a situation that occurred this year when Erin Thompson was elected to the position.

In May, Thompson and Councilor Tim Janssen each collected four votes in the election for council president and Mayor Joel Marquardt broke the tie in favor of Thompson. The next month Councilor Ryan Kellerman, who had voted for Janssen, asked that the election be declared invalid, contending the mayor should not have been allowed to break the tie.

City Attorney Neil Shortlidge said Kellerman’s interpretation was incorrect and the mayor had the right to break all ties under the city’s ordinances. Thompson then suggested that the council members who wanted a change bring back a proposal to the council.

Monday, Michael Rhoades, Kellerman and Becky Fast proposed a change that included removing the mayor’s ability to break a tie in the council president vote. The proposed process essentially institutes a coin flip to decide tie votes.

Janssen said the coin flip is “less political.” Marquardt, Janssen said, encouraged him to run for council president, but then voted against him in the tie-breaker. That vote, he added, has affected the relationship.

Part of the discussion revolved around whether the mayor is part of the group when it meets in workshop sessions (as it was Monday), formerly called committee of the whole.

Although five members supported the new process, it would take six positive votes because the change touches a charter ordinance. Thompson as council president moved the proposal to the next council session. Thompson, Teresa Kelly and Michael Poppa wanted to keep the mayor as the tie-breaker.