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Nolte makes stand on Sunshine Law

The Monday, March 13 meeting of the Clay County Commission seemed to be going off without a hitch.

After the meeting was called to order at 10:02 a.m., and after the invocation and the pledge of allegiance, Eastern Commissioner Luann Ridgeway made a motion to adopt the agenda at 10:05 a.m. However, County Counselor Kevin Graham stopped the motion and held up two more resolutions that needed to be added to the agenda, setting off a nearly hour long back and forth on the legality of adding items to the agenda.

One item seemed to be of a non-controversial nature as a $90 expenditure for the County to have a booth at this weekend’s upcoming Kearney Business Expo, which eventually saw approval. The other however, will wait until at least next week. The second item, a last-minute renewal of the county’s insurance policies, drew ire due to the nearly $1.6 million price tag with no chance for examination of the policy. This renewed calls from Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte for the Commissioners to have contract renewal dates provided to them a month ahead of time.

“The insurance expires Wednesday,” Nolte said. “When did we know that the contract expiration was this upcoming Wednesday? I’m a little confused why we couldn’t put this on the noticed agenda so it would be a publicly noticed item.”

Nolte also criticized the actions of the commission to add and subtract things from the agenda at the beginning of meetings. Graham said that the posted agenda is only tentative and that is all that is required by the Sunshine Law. Nolte countered that argument, saying that it might pass the letter of the Sunshine Law but it violated the spirit of the Sunshine Law.

“We’re spending all kinds of money on Sunshine Law counsel,” Nolte said. “Here we are, I believe, skirting the Sunshine Law. I can’t take any more of this. If we continue to allow, as a commission, this sort of thing to happen it is never going to stop. I think we owe it to our citizens to act in good faith of the Sunshine Law. This is not acting in good faith of the Sunshine Law. This a pattern and it seems to be getting worse. It seems to be just matter of fact that we add things to the agenda. I don’t know why in the world it is at minimum we comply with the spirit of the Sunshine Law.”

Nolte also added that it is not the best practice to add complex items like the insurance policy. He said he received no warning that the item would need to be added to the agenda. Ridgeway said she got a text message on Sunday, March 12 alerting her to the fact but she did not respond to the message due to the late hour. She also did not move to add any items to the agenda before her motion to adopt the agenda as published.

Read the rest of this story in the Friday, March 17 issue of the Standard 


-Bryce Mereness


By Standard Staff •

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