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Archive for Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Douglas County Commission’s meeting about SRS includes former Kansas attorney general Steve Six

August 3, 2011, 10:37 a.m. Updated August 3, 2011, 8:00 p.m.

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Douglas County commissioners gathered behind closed doors Wednesday evening for yet another session to discuss progress toward a potential deal intended to retain a home in Lawrence for SRS services.

And they welcomed a new face to the proceedings: Steve Six, a Lawrence attorney and former Kansas attorney general, Douglas County District Court judge and nominee for the 10th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Six joined county counselor Evan Ice, a colleague in the Stevens & Brand law firm, in meeting in executive session with commissioners and County Administrator Craig Weinaug for 70 minutes at the Douglas County Courthouse.

The topic: potential alternatives and legal issues surrounding the planned closure of the Lawrence SRS office, a move opposed by officials from the county, city of Lawrence, Lawrence school district and others who rely on the department’s services and personnel.

Six, a Democrat, didn’t enter Wednesday’s discussions for his political acumen, commissioners said. They’re relying on him and others at Stevens & Brand to help steer through the SRS issue and its legal complications, including potential lawsuits.

“For us, its a community challenge involving 10 percent of our population,” said Commissioner Nancy Thellman, a Democrat. “It’s neither Democrat nor Republican. It’s a human challenge, and we’re looking forward to working with the state to find a resolution.”

Commissioners met outside the public eye for the third time in four business days to grapple with the SRS situation — one in which the state’s Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has announced plans to close its Lawrence offices at 1900 Del. and 1901 Del. in a cost-cutting move expected to save $400,000 a year, most of it in rent.

Half of the money comes from the federal government, and county leaders have been meeting and consulting with a variety of elected officials and others to see if they can find a way to meet the state’s cost-savings needs while retaining the SRS operation in Lawrence.

The official justification for each of the three executive sessions thus far has been for commissioners and Craig Weinaug to consult with their attorneys regarding issues they deem privileged under the attorney-client relationship.

Translation: They’re trying to come up with a deal that works.

“The possibility of a lawsuit and the terms in the various contractual commitments and the ability of the state to break contracts is intrinsic to this discussion,” Weinaug said. “The possibility of a lawsuit in this situation — for several parties, including us — is more than just academic and theoretic. It is very, very real.”

What might result from the executive sessions remains uncertain, but a key intent — in support of retaining SRS services and personnel in Lawrence — is clear.

“If we succeed in our efforts, you won’t see a lawsuit,” Weinaug said. “That’s our goal.”

Comments

lunacydetector 3 years, 4 months ago

s.r.s. can walk away. canned language and a waste to the taxpayer if there is a lawsuit. if the county had a real solution, they could give s.r.s. an empty school, but they don't.

no more t bus riders. empty low income housing, non-profit organizations with nothing to do, an empty homeless shelter on recently purchased county ground, no more panhandlers downtown.....there's a lot riding on them staying. what would lawrence do if all the s.r.s. recipients moved away? everyone has their place in the family...or community. there will be quite a void, and the people who make a living dealing with the poor will be out of work.

deec 3 years, 4 months ago

Yup, you just keep repeating that canard. The judge will decide.

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 4 months ago

You're insight is amazing! (but not in a good way!)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

I believe you'd really miss them if they all left town-- I mean, there'd be no one around to make you feel like such a superior being.

Katara 3 years, 4 months ago

The county cannot give SRS an empty school. They do not have that jurisdiction. The school district is a separate taxing authority.

lunacydetector 3 years, 4 months ago

they gave the boys girls club east heights school for $1 a year.

these local meetings are political in nature, democrat vs. republican. our local s.r.s. office closure was not decided for political reasons but for fiscal necessity. the state is broke. our local leaders are trying to make this political with their threats of lawsuits. give the county some state money or we will sue, thank you taxpayers.

if people removed the emotion, it looks quite absurd.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

" the state is broke."

So the rich tell us, so the poor and middle class must pay.

JayhawkFan1985 3 years, 4 months ago

Real estated discussions, I believe, are one of the exceptions to the open meetings act.

lawslady 3 years, 4 months ago

Uh, what provision of KSA 75-4319(b) are they relying upon to close these discussions???

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 4 months ago

Actually, the "Sunshine" law can be superseded by attorney/client privilege. That's federal law and outranks state law. They actually could get in a whole heap o' trouble for violating that if it involves an individual. Just give them time. It will come out.

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 4 months ago

I am thrilled to know that our local leaders have now got an atty on the wagon! I look forward to public announcements on law suits and/or resolutions. Sometimes closed sessions are necessary in order to stay focused on the issues on the table. However, I would ask that they begin to be forthcoming in relaying the content of their discussions to John Q. very soon!

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 4 months ago

One more lawsuit for the BB administration to deal with. Will this be the third or fourth? I expect many, many more. I'm surprised that, to date, there hasn't been a First Amendment suit brought against SRS for hostile work environment and violation of the Establishment clause. But give it time. I'm sure it's coming down the road. Considering his fourteen years in Washington, Brownback just doesn't grok the Constitution. (To the extent that he co-sponsered a bill that would have limited the ability of SCOTUS to hear cases involving religious discrimination brought against governmental entities. It never even got out of committee but had it passed the Supremes would have shot it down in a heart beat.) It's sad that he isn't the only politician like this. (Michelle Bachman anyone?) Sometimes I think being able to pass an eighth grade civics class should be a requirement for "serving" (term used loosely) in Congress. What's sadder is how many of them are attorneys. Where were they during their classes on Constitutional law? (Suggestions invited.)

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 4 months ago

Michelle Bachman IS, in the words of Chris Wallace, a FLAKE!

Alceste 3 years, 4 months ago

"Millions for defense, sir, but not one cent for tribute!"

Tribute is just exactly what Brownback wants from Lawrence. If the city, county, whoever pony up one cent to keep the office open, they're playing into what Brownbacks' vision for Kansas is all about.

While the closing of a public assistance office the size of the Lawrence SRS office is obscene, it may just have to happen in order for the nimrods in the legislature to understand who runs this state.....and it isn't Brownback in my mind. However, if he is allowed to run roughshod over the legislative process, he will indeed be running the place.

Caving in to Brownback's demands for tribute is the worst thing Douglas County could do. THE worst thing. Watch what happens once Brownback is successful in getting a local community to shoulder the burden of the state. Get the proverbial foot in the door; .....give 'em an inch......hoo rah!

George Lippencott 3 years, 4 months ago

How come so mnay "closed" meetings. I thought government meetings were to be open unless discussing personnel or legal aCTIONS. Are we thinking about legal action against the state. Another WalMart??!!!

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 4 months ago

"The official justification for each of the three (closed) executive sessions thus far has been for commissioners and Craig Weinaug to consult with their attorneys regarding issues they deem privileged under the attorney-client relationship."

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 4 months ago

Did the county take legal action against WalMart?

George Lippencott 3 years, 4 months ago

The city did. Eitheer way it is our money they are spending. If ther si something realistic to gain - fine.

sciencegeek 3 years, 4 months ago

To balance out all the closed meetings where the decision to close was made in the first place.

LHS56 3 years, 4 months ago

I want to thank the County Commission for at least trying. Too many are sitting back saying my oh my....this is bad. And they are part of the problem, not part of the solution. I think it will be difficult at best to change Brownback's directive. But at least we need to try. I hope our Marci and Tom are working on this issue also. I haven't heard any comment from either of them. I may have just missed their work. Keep running that number of 10,000 people of Douglas County that need help. Perhaps as Lunchy is saying we are hoping these 10,000 will simply move to Ottawa, Topeka or Kansas City. My guess is we still have 10,000 in need and the number is growing ...and growing.

Alceste 3 years, 4 months ago

Yo! LHS56....I'm gonna let you in on a closely held secret......HOPE is NOT a strategy....

Catalano 3 years, 4 months ago

Pay better attention. Did you not see marci's photo on the front page of the paper last week? She was at the meeting at the library and has been working non-stop on this issue. Don't know if you're referring to Tom Holland or Tom Sloan, but I am sure they are both working on it as well, along with Paul Davis. Not sure about Ms. Ballard or Ms. Gregory.

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 4 months ago

Ok! Steve Six is now on the wagon too! I have no doubt he has a very big axe to grind with this farce of an administration!! "The possibility of a lawsuit and the terms in the various contractual commitments and the ability of the state to break contracts is intrinsic to this discussion,” Weinaug said. “The possibility of a lawsuit in this situation — for several parties, including us — is more than just academic and theoretic. It is very, very real.” STICK IT TO SAM!!!

smalltownchick 3 years, 4 months ago

This is definitely progress. I'm sorry to break it to some of you who think getting rid of the Lawrence SRS office will solve all local social problems. Losing the office will only make the problems worse! I am looking forward to seeing more progress by the fine leaders in Lawrence. Don't let Brownback get away with treating this great town like dirt. If it leads to a lawsuit, then so be it. Obviously our current state administration has some issues or there would not be multiple lawsuits happening over all the changes they are trying to make.

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 4 months ago

Exactly! I think Sammy is finally getting a few doses of medicine that may be just a tad bit tough to swallow! Kansans ain't as "Brownbackwards" as he thought we were!! Rally the lawyers and bring it on! It may cost some bucks, but it's well worth it to show Browncrack and the kissers that we are mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore!

KCLeo 3 years, 4 months ago

<<1900 Del. and 1901 Del. in a cost-cutting move expected to save $400,000 a year, most of it in rent.>>

If most of the cost is rent, how about negotiating a lower rent? I wonder who actually owns the building?

deec 3 years, 4 months ago

Schwada. I doubt he's going to just say "Oh, never mind I'm out $300K+ rent" without a lawsuit.

jafs 3 years, 4 months ago

According to what I've heard, Independence Inc. offered office space at $150/month per office, which would be a massive savings - the state turned them down.

deec 3 years, 4 months ago

The annual rent I think was $330,000, so 19 months of rent would be owed (Oct.-Dec. 2011, all of 2012 and the 6 months notice required by the lease, so the total is $522,500, plus potential lawyer fees and court costs. Yeah, I'm sure a wealthy developer is just going to leave a half million dollars on the table.

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 4 months ago

Six goes toe to toe with Brownback in the cage match of the century! Film at 11! Actually, with an attorney and jurist of Six's intellect and expertise, Brownback should be sweating. Just maybe Moran and Roberts should have put aside their partisanship and BB back slapping long enough to understand that, as LBJ once said about J.Edgar Hoover, "There are some people that it's better having inside your tent throwing st out than outside your tent throwing st in."

Richard Heckler 3 years, 4 months ago

Why can't Douglas County get their hands on the half of the money that does come from the feds? Then the county come up with the other half?

Then sue the state for the taxpayers portion that is being recklessly managed. Yes I want my half back of the state tax money back in the form of a refund check.

Liberty275 3 years, 4 months ago

"commissioners said. They’re relying on him and others at Stevens & Brand"

Where did I recently hear some complaining and moaning about the government using private attorneys? Oh yeah, the larryville hypocrite club and left-wing whinery..

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 4 months ago

So are you in support of the AG hiring outside attorneys? If not, you have a right to complain. Otherwise, you have no right to say anything about the Commissioners stealing a page from their playbook. Sauce, goose, gander.

madameX 3 years, 4 months ago

I don't think it's the "outside attorneys" that people have a problem with so much as the "$300/hour for attorney work and $100/hour for paralegal work" that the state is paying the other firm to defend the stupid abortion regulations. Additionally, in this case we are a) not talking about the state b) not talking about any entity that already has an office that is specifically deditacate to, among other things, defending lawsuits.

Liberty275 3 years, 4 months ago

So it depends on how "stupid" the case is? Also, Douglas County has no attorneys that can advise the commission on their legal recourse when they disagree with a governor's edict?

As for money, is Stevens & Brand working for free?

madameX 3 years, 4 months ago

As far as I know, Douglas County does not, in fact, have an equivilant to the AG's office that is exists specifically for dealing with civil cases, which is the category this would fall under, IMO. The closest I can think of would be the DA, but it's not really reasonable to expect a criminal prosecuter to be able to give good advice on a civil matter. There are loads of attorneys who practice in Douglas County, but they're not employed by the people of Douglas County the way the AG is employed by the people of the state.

It in no way depends on how "stupid" the case is; if the AG was was defending the abortion regulations I would maintain my opinion that the law itself is stupid while acknowledging that the AG is the appropriate person to be charged with defending it. What I consider to be inappropriate is that the state is paying someone else to do it at all; the fact that I think the law being defended is stupid is just extra.

As for money, I don't know if Stevens & Brand are working for free or not, but I'm not going to pass judgement until I do.

DRsmith 3 years, 4 months ago

Well, I am glad Six is finding something to do since it doesn't appear he will have to worry about being a judge anytime soon.

Jeff Barclay 3 years, 4 months ago

I honestly do not know what the solution is to finding the best way to deliver social rehab services to Kansas citizens. Certainly we know the state can't afford to do things the way they used to be done. Even with a local SRS office, I know firsthand, as we have a daugher with a disability, that there is way too much redundancy, incompetence, and inefficiency in the ways services are rendered. I must say this, I find it sadly ironic that many of those, (clergy, civic employees, and elected officials) who are the most adament and passionate in their protests, in seeking to "protect the most vulnerable of our society," have also publicly indicated their acceptance of abortion. Seems to me protecting the most vulnerable members of our society ought to begin with those unborn citizens in their mother's wombs.

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 4 months ago

It's just as sad to realize that the same people that are so "prolife" (their words, not mine) are just as willing to abandon those same children the minute they're born. Where is the difference? It would seem to me that "abortion" is "abortion" to people who claim to be "prolife"; whether it occurs before or after birth. Shouldn't we be worrying just as much (if not more) about "born" children?

mloburgio 3 years, 4 months ago

cait48, if you want a republican to care about you, remain a fetus!

Liberty275 3 years, 4 months ago

And if you want a democrat to care, kill a fetus.

Joe Hyde 3 years, 4 months ago

My take on this closed-door meeting is that following the announced closing of Lawrence's SRS office the Douglas County Commission, Lawrence City Commission and many local government agencies have correctly acknowledged the great weight of public opposition to the office closure. And in addition to their disagreement with the state's logic in ordering the SRS office closed, the commissioners and local officials can cite legitimate and proveable professional objections to the damaging impacts that will be felt here.

From public meetings held earlier they already know the public has their backs on this issue in an overwhelming way, therefore there is no further need to hold additional meetings of the type open to public attendance. Inviting Mr. Six to attend this latest closed-door meeting is particularly relevant because the Secretary of SRS and Gov. Brownback have already proven themselves highly resistant to common sense political arguments that our local officials have been presenting in hopes of persuading Secretary Siedlecki and the governor to reverse their decision.

The state fired the first shot, and did that without following the convention of first holding public meetings to vet the idea. The state's action was a sneak attack, plain and simple.

The notion of suing their own state government is repulsive to any city or county official. But in this extraordinary circumstance the lives of 10,000 local citizens are under threat, and those people must be defended. The state has left our local government representatives no option other than to formulate a battle plan then go to war in court. I'm proud of our local officials for gathering together this war council, and I don't care if they're doing it behind closed doors or inside a pup tent on a Kaw River sandbar.

Alceste 3 years, 4 months ago

I thought there were rules about being on those Kaw River sandbars?

John Hamm 3 years, 4 months ago

Get over it. Move on - find new jobs to replace the ones lost. Jeezzzzzzz What's it take around here?

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 4 months ago

It ain't over til it's over. Until there is something to "get over" this issue will continue to gather speed and support. Sorry OB..but your wish for this issue to disappear just ain't gonna happen.. so..YOU get over it!

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 4 months ago

Big difference between the state and a private business, Wilbur. That day in Civics class must have been the day you skipped.

1983Hawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Love all the pliant tools on here expressing concern about going behind closed doors, etc. I'm sure they were equally miffed when the governor and his crowd failed to publicly discuss the closure decision before cowardly dropping the all-too-familiar Friday afternoon bomb so as to minimize press and public attention heading into a weekend.

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 4 months ago

"Using the courts to resolve political disputes will hasten the publics disrespect for the court." Kind of like when the the Supremes handed the presidency to GWB in his first appointment, err "election"? And when they granted "personhood" to corporations?

Liberty275 3 years, 4 months ago

Kind of like when algore lost every recount?

"And when they granted "personhood" to corporations?"

Do corporations fill out the census or vote?

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 4 months ago

Psst! Let me tell you a secret. There's this thing called Google...

MarcoPogo 3 years, 4 months ago

Damn you, Journal World! The other day, Wilbur VERY CLEARLY told you to move on to another topic. Why won't you listen???

LHS56 3 years, 4 months ago

lol...Marco....you know the JW is in the business of selling advertisement. They need some news to say it is a "newspaper." So.....SRS will continue to be in the "news" as long as a lawsuit or other action might be pending. Think of the Trafficway.....25 plus years and counting.

Synjyn Smythe 3 years, 4 months ago

THINK: 1) The Gov. wants to be viewed as pro-law enforcement. If there was a legit law enforcement concern voiced to him, he'd concede the point. Law enforcement has made no such noise. 2) Dg.Co. wants to convince the Gov. to do something, so it enlists an atty. that the Gov. despises. What do you think the chances are of persuading the Gov. ?? Noise alone is merely annoying!

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