The Butler County Commission discussed who should provide their legal counsel for the county after receiving notice their current counselor, Norm Manley, will be retiring.
Manley appeared before the Commission Tuesday morning to discuss the situation.
He will be retiring from the general practice of law in August of this year.
“My partner, Rob Lane, has requested and I agreed to stay on with the law firm as status of counsel,” he said. “What we are proposing is I stay on as county counselor. Most of what I do is by e-mail.”
He also will be in Butler County once a week or every two weeks and can come down as needed.
“The thought is what I would like to see happen is to transition this job over to Rob Lane in time,” Manley said. “He has indicated he would like to sit in on things at no additional expense to the county. In time, gradually transition the position of county counselor over to him. The other option is to put it into the office of the county attorney.”
His only misgiving on this was if there was a situation that created a conflict between the commission and county attorney.
“Those situations have been few and far between but worth considering,” Manley said.
Darrin Devinney, county attorney, pointed out what a good deal the county has been getting with Manley.
“I’ve always appreciated Norm’s willingness to work with my office,” he said.
He too was concerned if there was a legal issue with the two jobs being merged.
“To me, it’s the fundamentals of how this structure works in Butler County,” Devinney said.
Another concern was if there was a recall or ouster it would put them diametrically opposed in a courtroom, although he didn’t anticipate that ever happening.
“As far as exposure to real estate and contracts, Rob Lane probably has more experience doing that than any of the counselors in my office right now,” Devinney said. “It doesn’t mean we can’t learn in. It can be done; we can merge these things.”
Another concern was he has already asked for an expansion of his office just to handle the criminal side.
“We would have to hire either part time or potentially full time,” Devinney said of if this new duty was added. “I think it would be less expense for Rob Lane to take over those contract duties.”
Page 2 of 3 - Devinney also said there was a timeliness issue because the criminal cases would be their primary focus and they may not be as timely as needed on the contracts if they were busy with criminal cases.
Will Johnson, county administrator, said his biggest concern was not the conflicts that might occur, but the priories.
“He’s elected to prosecute criminal trials,” Johnson said. “He wasn’t elected to stay up and review contracts.”
The commissioners agreed they didn’t want to add to his workload or give them a whole new area of the law with which they are not familiar.
The consensus was the keep the county counsel separate from the county attorney.
Commissioner Peggy Palmer wanted to open it up to a normal process for hiring and see if others were interested as well.
Johnson said they could do that but it was hard to find municipal law attorneys.
The commissioners will discuss this further at a workshop in the future.
In other business, they:
• heard a presentation from Marcie Brewer and Lou Clennan with Tour Butler for funding for an ad in the Kansas Travel Guide. The cost was $3,835. The commission approved the request 4-0. Jeff Masterson was not present.
• discussed a fence assignment following a viewing on June 17. The fence dispute was between Thunder Turf and Mr. Harris. The issue was the south part of the fence that goes through a pond and the estimated cost to repair the fence was $1,510. The commissioners decided each land owner would share equally in the cost of the fence through the pond. In addition, Harris would be required to string barbed wire taunt across the top of his fence. The issue was tabled until next week.
• approved, 5-0, a contract between the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Butler County Health Department acting as the fiscal agency for South Central Metro Region for Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant in the amount of $34,105. Butler County is the fiscal agent for the seven-county region. There is no match for the grant.
• approved the Agreement of Affiliation between Kansas State University and the Butler County Health Department for the department to host a student from K-State wanting to learn more about WIC. It would only be during the summer months and may not be every year.
• approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Child Start to provide services to participants and staff. The health department had provided service to Head Start for a number of years. This year that contract was given to Child Start, so the health department wanted to offer the same services to them.
Page 3 of 3 - • approved Public Health Preparedness Grant contract between the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Butler County Health Department. The majority of the grant would go to pay the coordinator’s salary. It is basically being prepared at the local level and being able to train their staff to dispense medications if they have to.
• approved the Cities Readiness Initiative contract between the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Butler County Health Department. The grant is for $132,654 is if from July 1 to June 30. It covers Sedgwick, Butler, Harvey and Sumner counties and is focused on preparedness, training and purchasing of supplies. Butler County gets a 13 percent administrative fee.
• reviewed the bids for the three bridge repair projects. All but one of the bids came in above the engineer’s estimates. Statute says a bid cannot be more than 10 percent above the engineer’s estimate. They tabled the item to get legal input on it before making a decision.
• approved an application to KDOT for federal aid off-system bridge funds for a planned bridge replacement project on SW 60th over Dry Creek located north and east of Andover. They were requesting federal aid for bridge replacement. This is the third year they are making this application. They were applying for 80 percent of $468,000, with 20 percent being paid by the county.
• 10.) approved of an agreement with KDOT and with BNSF for the installation of railroad crossing signals and gates on NE 60th Street at the BNSF railroad crossing located north and east of El Dorado. All of the cost of the improvements will be paid for by KDOT and BNSF will do the work. They approved another agreement for the railroad crossing on Purity Springs Road.
• heard an update on NW River Valley Road. They hired Dustrol to go out and mill the road, which they will start next Monday or Tuesday. They have had soft spots to repair before the base is put down. The county has committed all of its trucks and graders to this project, which has hurt them by about three weeks on their summer work schedule.