Shawnee council begins process to fill Justin Adrian’s vacant seat

Shawnee council Ward 3
Justin Adrian’s seat on Ward 3 is vacant until Shawnee councilmembers appoint someone in his stead Nov. 13.

Shawnee city leaders decided to find someone to fill Justin Adrian’s vacant council seat as soon as possible. But most councilmembers at its Monday meeting argued against allowing remote interviews with interested candidates.

The Ward 3 seat has been vacant since Adrian abruptly resigned from the council Sept. 12 — two days after he was placed on administrative leave by the Olathe School District. He was arrested Sept. 25 on charges of unlawful sexual relations.

Justin Adrian was booked into Johnson County Jail Sept. 25. He posted bond the next day.

Adrian posted bond Sept. 26 and appeared in Johnson County District Court for a no-go preliminary hearing Oct. 4. His next court date is 10:45 a.m. Nov. 7.

The council unanimously agreed in a 7-0 vote to begin advertising the Ward 3 vacancy Wednesday, Oct. 10, and consider applicants until Tuesday, Nov. 13. The council would then interview interested candidates in person that Tuesday and officially appoint someone later that evening.

Stephanie Meyer asked her fellow councilmembers to consider allowing remote interviews or delaying the Nov. 13 appointment date to allow opportunity from candidates who may be unable to physically attend. She said she wants to be more accommodating to candidates who have full-time jobs.

“I just want to make sure that we have as wide a pool of applicants as possible; it’s my ward, so perhaps I’m partial,” Meyer said, “but as we have in the last couple of months moved to recognize that the council is a position in which you have another job oftentimes, and you have other commitments, we want to be a council that recognizes that and appreciates the diversity of what that brings.”

Dissenting councilmembers wanted to avoid delaying the appointment. Nonetheless, Meyer made a motion to allow remote interviews; councilmember Matt Zimmerman seconded it. The motion died 2-5.

Two interested candidates asked the council to reconsider allowing remote interviews. Kurt Knappen said he will be out of town for business matters.

“Any other time, I would love to be here; I would respectfully ask for the remote option,” Knappen said.

Lisa Larson-Bunnell echoed Knappen’s sentiments, adding that she wanted the council to have the opportunity to consider her future opponent’s candidacy.

“I want the pool of candidates for Ward 3 to be as diverse as possible,” Larson-Bunnell said. “I want the best candidate possible to be selected. I believe that I’m the best candidate, but I would like everybody to have a fair shake.”

Mayor Michelle Distler apologized for calling a vote on allowing remote interviews before accepting public input. The council did not reconsider its decision; councilmember Zimmerman said he thinks the council’s decision on this matter “is likely going to set precedence.”

Regarding the appointment process, Distler encouraged the council to submit their questions by next week and agree on a set list of questions to ask candidates before their brief interviews in front of the council.

“I think this gives the opportunity for everyone to have more information,” Distler said.

The Shawnee council also unanimously agreed in a 7-0 vote to have a special election Nov. 5, 2019, to give the appointed councilmember and other candidates the opportunity to run for the Ward 3 seat.

Councilmembers in their council committee meeting last week had agreed 5-1 to have a special election in November instead of a stand-alone election in the spring. Eric Jenkins had cast the single dissenting vote, while Mike Kemmling was absent.