Mike Rundle, a former mayor and 12-year Lawrence city commissioner, has filed for personal Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.
Rundle listed assets of $20,938 and liabilities of $33,383 in his April 13 filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Topeka. The filing occurred three days after he left the commission.
Rundle said that earning $9,000 a year as a commissioner, or $10,000 a year as mayor, didn't come close to covering the costs of spending anywhere from 20 to 40 hours a week dealing with city business.
In 2001, Rundle said, he left a management position at the Community Mercantile Co-op to resume work there as a cashier, a part-time hourly position. He figures the move cost him up to $60,000 in lost wages during the past five years.
Now facing combined credit debt of $28,652, according to his bankruptcy filing, Rundle favors boosting wages for the five commissioners overseeing the city's $137.5 million budget for this year.
"This is important work," Rundle said. "It's very complex. A commissioner needs to have a basic understanding of many different things, and I think the salary makes it look like this is some kind of PTA picnic planning committee instead of the work that it is - as an executive management team for a business that's (spending) $137 million a year.
"If you had somebody in the executive level of a corporation of that stature, you wouldn't expect them to work from their home and with those kind of resources."
Rundle completed his required credit counseling in February, after announcing in January that he would not seek re-election. At the time he said that he wanted to spend more time with his father, stepmother and domestic partner.
Now that he's filed for bankruptcy protection, Rundle acknowledges that finances played at least an indirect role in his decision.
"I was no longer willing to do that work at the underpaid rate that it is," Rundle said.
In his bankruptcy filing, Rundle reported having a net income of $18,289 a year, generated from his part-time job at The Merc and work as a piano tuner. He did not include the $656 in net income he had been receiving monthly as a commissioner, acknowledging that those wages would be ceasing as of April 10.
Rundle was elected three times to the five-member commission, which governs the city of Lawrence and sets policies that guide the community's provision of municipal services.
Rundle's first term as a commissioner ran from 1987 to 1991, after which he chose not to seek re-election. Rundle ran again in 1998, taking office in 1999 and being re-elected in 2003. He served yearlong terms as mayor in 2001-2002 and 2004-2005.