The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 30, 2012

Recall of Baxter Springs council members to be on November ballot

Additional petition still being circulated

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. — The controversy surrounding city government in Baxter Springs has been on a low simmer of late.

That may change soon.

Cherokee County Clerk Crystal Gatewood on Wednesday approved petitions filed by supporters of Baxter Springs Mayor Jenifer Bingham for a recall election involving Councilmen Gary Allen, Ron Costlow and Ed McAfee. The recall election will be on the ballot in the Nov. 6 general election.

A petition seeking a recall election involving Councilman Robert St. Clair was still being circulated on Thursday.

Those council members are among the five-member majority that has opposed some of Bingham’s recent actions.

The petitions were required to have signatures equal to at least 40 percent of the number of ballots cast in the most recent election in which the council members were elected.

The petition naming Costlow had 71 valid signatures, and 57 were required. The petition naming McAfee had 41 valid signatures and needed 36. For Allen’s petition, 125 valid signatures were collected, and 113 were needed. The Allen recall petition was turned in Aug. 6, while the other two were filed Monday.

The petitions state as their basis that the council members allegedly violated the Kansas Open Meetings Law, an allegation Bingham also has made. There has been no evidence presented to support the claim.

The conflict began at the April 10 council meeting, when Bingham appointed people of her own choosing to replace City Clerk Donna Wixon and police Chief David Edmondson. The council voted 6-2 against the mayor’s appointments and took additional action to ensure that the appointees didn’t later automatically take office.

Bingham responded the next day by placing Wixon on paid suspension and changing the locks at City Hall. The council eventually restored Wixon to her job.

Bingham has contended that Wixon had received free cable television service. It’s a city-owned and city-managed utility. Wixon and Allen have said the council had authorized the arrangement so Wixon could monitor the system and notify technicians of problems.

Bingham had incorrectly alleged that Wixon was being investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation over the matter.

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