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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission member questions board membership of employee

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

MOUND CITY – At the Monday, Aug. 7, commission meeting, Linn County Commissioner Jim Johnson questioned whether it was a conflict of interest that Economic Development Director Jessica Hightower was a member of the Southeastern Technical Academy for Rural Students (STARS) board since the county gives them money.

County Counselor Gary Thompson said he would check into that.

This question came after Jessica Hightower presented the paperwork for the commissioners to sign for the community development block grant (CDBG) grant that the county received for the STARS program. The county did not give any funds for this grant but will only be the fiduciary for the funding of the program. School districts will be providing the matching funds for the grant.

The county commission did vote 2 to 1 on May 15 to dedicate a one mill levy for the STARS program in 2024. Johnson voted against the measure, saying he wanted to know what the schools were contributing.

When no commissioner volunteered to be on the STARS board at the May 30 commission meeting, Jessica Hightower volunteered because she felt that her housing expertise would be beneficial to that program. The commissioners voted unanimously to appoint her to the board. Johnson seconded the motion.

The Linn County Commissioners have representatives from the commission on other boards for organizations to which the county gives money.

Commission Chair Danny McCullough is the county representative on the Southeast Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Center board. Commissioner Jason Hightower is the representative on the East Central Kansas Area Agency on Aging (ECKAAA) board.

While those are boards that the county receives specific services from, Linn County department heads have recently mentioned how the students from the STARS program have already helped with filling vacant positions in the county. Recent hires include a jailer and emergency medical personnel.

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