After concerns from council, Roeland Park tweaks proposed media policy to route requests to city admin

Roeland Park City Council member Becky Fast said she had concerns with the policy as initially proposed. File photo.

Debate on Roeland Park’s media policy continued Monday, with some councilmembers voicing concern the policy placed too much emphasis on the mayor’s role in speaking with the media.

The proposed policy would guide how city officials respond to media inquiries, directing requests for official city statements to the city administrator and the mayor. The policy allows councilmembers to respond to media inquiries asking for a councilor’s personal opinion on an issue.

The policy is meant to “encourage engagement while protecting the accuracy of the information” without hindering the ability of elected officials to share opinions, according to a staff report.

Councilmembers Becky Fast and Tom Madigan noted concerns the policy would route initial media requests to the mayor and with language specifying the city administrator responds to requests in conjunction with the mayor.

Fast said language should encourage official city statements to come from the city administrator and not the mayor.

Fast and Madigan recalled when previous Roeland Park mayors made controversial comments that generated “bad press.”

“I’ve seen several mayors who have made statements to the press that did not represent the council, it represented their political interest,” Fast said.

Encouraging the press to speak with the city administrator would take “politics out of the statement,” Fast said.

Madigan said he thought the city administrator should be able to respond to inquiries without first needing to loop in the mayor, pointing out that the city administrator position was full-time while the mayor’s position was only part-time.

“I think it puts the city in a bad light when we have to stall somebody to give a comment,” Madigan said.

Mayor Mike Kelly and councilmembers Tim Janssen and Jennifer Hill spoke in support of the proposed policy.

Hill said she was in “complete support” of the media policy, noting that she has never felt that her voice was being stifled.

“I feel like the mayor and the city administrator are the people who should be speaking for our city,” Hill said.

Mayor Kelly suggested removing the requirement that all media inquiries requesting an official statement first be sent to the Mayor’s office and instead route initial media requests to the city administrator.

Fast and Madigan said they supported the change.

The council signaled consensus for the policy with updated language to be placed on the consent agenda of the next council meeting.