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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Resident questions county officials on commission district

Updated: Jan 26

By Charlene Sims,

Update: In an email from Linn County Clerk David Lamb on Tuesday, Jan. 23, concerning a charge by county resident Sherri Gentry, he said that on further review of documents from the November 2022 election there was no irregularities found in the election results.

"But I know I have reviewed my Voter Registration records and Valley Township has been in Commission District #2 since 2011," Lamb reported. "I also reviewed the PDF copies of all the ballots that contained a Commission race from 2010 through 2022, and they are all correct for Valley Township."

He also said he had no comment on what an individual voter says they remember what they voted on. 

MOUND CITY – During public comment at the Monday, Jan. 22, Linn County Commission meeting, solar farm opponent Sherri Gentry addressed the commissioners on the voter districts in Linn County.

Gentry told the commissioners that there was a lot of confusion.

“Several months ago, you addressed me after a meeting and said that I was not in your district,” Gentry said to Commission Chair Jason Hightower. “At that point we called David (Lamb, Linn County Clerk) over, and he said that the districting had changed last year and Ali (Hamilton) had heard that also, so it struck a chord with her because she had always thought she was in District 1 as well for several years.”

Gentry said she had emailed County Clerk David Lamb to get a clarification on it. He said the other day it was changed in 2011. She told the commissioners she needed some clarification on how this all transpired. She asked if there were more people other than her husband, Greg, her mother and her that have been voting in the wrong district. 

She continued, “Because we have lived here for 25 years, we voted for Herb Pemberton for every one of his elections as a commissioner, we voted for Rick James for every one of his elections, and I did not know you and I spoke with other people and we voted for you as well."

Gentry said that in the email she received back from Lamb, he said, “I’ve already stated I don’t remember saying your commission district changed last year. I know we reviewed the districts a year or two ago after the census. If I said that I was wrong and I should have researched the issue before making a comment. Valley Township has not changed commission districts since 2011."

“If you have received a wrong ballot, it would be from a poll worker,” said Gentry, reading from Lamb’s email. “Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about that after someone votes. Once the ballot goes in the scanner, we cannot take it back and we would have no way to know which ballot it was.

“If you believe you are receiving the wrong ballot, please bring it up before you cast the ballot at that point we can research the issue and get you the correct ballot if it’s wrong.”

Gentry once again questioned how many people this has affected and asked again for clarification on when this was changed because her family did not receive any notification and neither had Ali.

“This is a serious issue when you are talking about elections. And I do know that my husband and I and my mother have all voted in your district since Herb Pemberton was there and those are the ballots we received. So I want to make you all aware of it and that David and I are going to pursue it and figure it out before we have to take it any further,” said Gentry.

At the end of the open meeting, Lamb showed everyone that was interested the ballots for the last several years on commission races and explained where he was coming from on this.

Lamb told them that to access the registration rolls, they would have to come over to his office because that was the only place from which they could access records in Topeka.

Other actions of the commissioners were:

• After a 10 minute executive session requested by Commissioner Jim Johnson, Johnson moved to fire Jessica Hightower. Commission Chair Jason Hightower recused himself from voting, and Commissioner Danny McCullough said, “I think your motion is stupid, and I am not going to second it.” The motion died for lack of a second.

• Johnson questioned a $220,000 expenditure to the Southeastern Technical Academy for Rural Students (STARS) program. He said that he thought that a memorandum of understanding was supposed to be presented to the commission reporting on what the money was being spent on. 

Neither County Counselor Gary Thompson, Lamb, nor Jessica Hightower remembered specifically what was required. Thompson said that he remembered that they would report regularly on what they were spending it on. 

Jessica Hightower who represents the county on the STARS board said that the money had been used on insurance, fire suppression and the building remodel.

Jessica Hightower will reach out to the director, Jay Allen, and ask him to come in and give a report.

• Johnson brought up the issue of ending the contract with the Southeast Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Since the contract begins on Jan. 1 and requires a six month notice for ending the contract, the commission agreed to get started on the letter to the center before July 1.

• At the request of Information Technology (IT) Director Chris Martin, the commissioners approved purchasing two new storage servers and adding a metric server for $27,000.

• Learned from Public Works Director Shaun West that the county’s on-call engineer was going to work on the Hell’s Bend Bridge Project to look at the feasibility and cost of putting in an at-grade crossing compared to the bridge. After determining the cost, the engineer will present the information to the commissioners. 

• Learned from West that the county will be putting out the mowing request for proposal next week.

• Met with the foremen from the road departments to talk about the three-to-five-year equipment plan.

• Accepted the resignation of Jake Fleming and the retirement of Donald Fish. Commission Chair Jason Hightower thanked them for their service.

• At the request of Interim Appraiser Lisa Kellstadt, the commissioners approved that the change of value notices (CVN) will be going out on March 15 rather than on March 1. This notification to the commissioners is required by the state.  

• Heard from Lamb that he had sent out notices to them about the next SEK meeting in Burlington on April 18.  Lamb will make reservations for those attending.                                                                                                                                                                         


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