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  • Writer's pictureJournal Staff Report

Commission member faces complaint of ouster

Updated: Jun 27

District 3 Linn County Commissioner Jim Johnson, right, attended a meet-and-greet for Republican political candidates Saturday in Parker. Johnson has been named in a complaint of ouster. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

MOUND CITY – A complaint of ouster against Linn County Commissioner Jim Johnson has been filed with Linn County Attorney’s office. If approved by County Attorney Burton Harding, Johnson, who is commissioner for District 3, could be suspended from office within days on a temporary basis.

Public Works Director Shaun West notified the commissioners at the end of the Linn County Commission meeting on Monday, June 17, that he had delivered the complaint to the county attorney earlier that morning

The ouster, related to grievances filed by at least three employees in the past year against Johnson for the treatment they had received from him, was the culmination of frustration of the grievances having never been resolved and the treatment continuing against the employees.

West, who had filed a grievance, was also acting as the supervisor of employees who had filed grievances. 

This is the announcement that he gave the commissioners:

“One last, late coming agenda item for me and I believe it will be self explanatory as to why I cannot take questions or answer anything on it at this point.

“Based on the 11 months in the processes that we’ve gone through with no results and some continued behavior and the behavior of targeting employees that I allege,  where no judgment has been made, for that purpose and that purpose alone, I am notifying you that this morning I delivered a complaint of ouster to the county attorney ‘s office for his review against Mr. Johnson, our commissioner. 

“The purpose for saying that is not that a complaint alone is a judgment of fact or is anything other than an allegation. I want to make clear I am not a finder of fact. The purpose for telling you this is to make sure that if there’s any direction, reprisal, or consequence that it falls on my shoulders. Thank you.”

Johnson did not offer a response to West's statement at the meeting.

On Monday, Harding acknowledged that he had received the complaint of ouster but declined to immediately comment on the complaint or the process.

The ouster of complaint that West was referring to was based on Kansas Statute 60-1205, which states the grounds for forfeiture of public office.

It states that officials “who shall (1) willfully engage in misconduct while in office, (2) willfully neglect to perform any duty enjoined upon such person by law, (3) demonstrate mental impairment such that the person lacks the capacity to manage the office held, or (4) who shall commit any act constituting a violation of any penal statute involving moral turpitude, shall forfeit such person’s office and shall be ousted from such office in the matter hereinafter provided.”

According to the statute, the county attorney is obligated to investigate the complaint, and if reasonable cause is found for the complaint, proceedings will begin to oust that official from office. The statute also states that the county attorney can also begin those proceedings without a complaint being filed.

Once the county attorney has agreed to the complaint and has filed it with the court, the official can be suspended from office until a final hearing is held by the court, according to the statute. Until the hearing process is complete, the “authority having the power to appoint” can appoint a temporary official to assume those duties.

That is expected to be the Linn County Republican Party Central Committee because Johnson is a Republican. The commissioner recently filed for re-election to his seat and has actively been campaigning for reelection. He will face Richard Morrell of Mound City in the primary election on Aug. 6, and the winner of that vote will face no challenger during the general election in November.

If the case goes to court, Johnson will be able to present his case for reinstatement. If  the court determines the complaint does not warrant removal and Johnson is reinstated, he will receive full back pay.

The temporary official will also receive full pay for a commissioner during the time he or she serves. 

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