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Petition to recall Kansas City councilman falls short of enough signatures

·4 min read

A petition attempting to recall Councilman Eric Bunch, District 4, has fallen short.

The group’s main reason for seeking the recall was because of a general unhappiness with what they felt was a secretive process to reallocate police funding. They want councilmembers that support law enforcement.

In May, council approved two measures giving the city manager authority to negotiate with the Board of Kansas City Police Commissioners how it will spend about $42.3 million of the police department’s $239 million budget.

“It’s time that elected officials understand they work for us,” Bjornlie said. “They don’t get to tell us what to do.”

Bunch wrote on Twitter after the results came out that he’s “happy to have this behind us and excited to continue the work as your councilperson.”

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas posted on Twitter that “it is appropriate the Councilman will continue to serve until he, like all of us, faces the end of his elected term(s) as selected by our voters at regular elections.”

Communications director for Take KC Back — the group that organized the petition — Shannon Bjornlie told The Star last week that they were frustrated with the process.

They were told initially they needed 2,427 signatures. When they fell short, petitioners were given a 10-day extension at the end of August to get the remaining signatures. The number they needed was upped to 2,673, petitioners said.

The group said they collected about 3,830 signatures mostly from Jackson County. They fell about 200 signatures short, Bjornlie said. She said they hired an attorney to assist with the petitioning process and that their attorney will be looking at the results.

“We had great conversations with people and even with people who were not necessarily on board with what we were doing,” Bjornlie said.

The petition was turned in Sept. 10 and was sent to the election board on Monday. Four days later, the results were in. Bjornlie said last week that they don’t know why so many signatures were tossed, whether it was due to an out-of-date address or an illegible signature.

The Take KC Back group is considering other councilmembers to attempt to recall, Bjornlie said.

On Twitter last month, Bunch addressed the recall.

“I’ve struggled to devise the appropriate response. Do I bring unwarranted attention to the frivolous attempt to halt the progress we’ve made? Or do I ignore it knowing they are likely to fail?” Bunch wrote.

He stood behind the vote to exact more control over how the Kansas City Police Department spends taxpayer money.

“I’m damn proud of that vote,” Bunch said.

“Thanks to this vote, you and your local officials can ensure that KCPD uses your tax dollars as intended — at least for a portion of their budget. Gone are the days of writing a blank check to the Governor-appointed police commission.”

He said it was the “first substantive step” recently toward transforming the police department’s governance structure.

The police board is appointed by the Missouri governor. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is also a member. And while the council has little say over the department’s operations, it does approve the budget.

The council members who opposed the measure were all from the Northland: Teresa Loar, Heather Hall, Dan Fowler and Kevin O’Neill.

The police board filed a lawsuit against the city over the budget measure.

And a lawsuit filed this week by Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, seeks to prevent the police board from compelling the city to provide them with the $42.3 million of KCPD’s $239 million budget.

Last year, organizers of another recall — one directed at Mayor Quinton Lucas — also fell short.

Recall petitions require signatures equal to 20% of the votes cast for mayor in the preceding election, and petitioners have 30 days to acquire the signatures.

A recall petition also requires five petitioners to sign an affidavit stating the grounds for wanting to remove the elected official. According to the City Charter, those grounds must “relate to and affect the administration of the officials’ office, and be of a substantial nature directly affecting the rights and interests of the public.”

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