County may face penalties for secret meeting

The Marion County Com­munity Economic Corpora­tion may face potential state violations after holding a secret meeting last month.

The meeting, which was held at the Historic Elgin Hotel in Marion, quickly sparked conflict between the Marion County Board of Commissioners, MCCEDC, and Dianne Novak, chair of the commission, who was left out of the meeting.

Novak announced during Monday’s county commission meeting that she would be filing a Kansas Open Meetings Act violation complaint against members of the county commission. The complaint will be sent to the Kansas Attorney General’s office.

Novak said because MCCEDC is an entity that deals with taxpayer money, they are subject to Kansas Open Meetings Act laws and last month’s meeting “clearly violated” these laws.

“The people need to be informed,” Novak said. “They can’t be informed if we do things behind closed doors all the time.”

Mike Beneke, MCCEDC treasurer, announced Monday that MCCEDC’s prospective director had turned down the job offer and the board would continue its search for a new director.

Amy Doane, MCCEDC chair, told the Free Press she would be resigning following this week’s meeting.

This leaves the board with vacancies in its two primary leadership positions.

Novak and Beneke agree there are conflicts between the county and MCCEDC that need to be addressed.

Beneke spoke to the commission Monday about his concerns.

Beneke said “it’s evident that there is a lot of personal tension” between himself and Novak. He said she will oppose every idea he has, “whether it’s good, bad, or otherwise.”

“She only remembers what she wants to remember,” Beneke said.

He said he would have invited her to the director search meeting last month if she had returned his phone calls.

“I can’t make her return her phone calls and I’m not going to chase her down,” Beneke said.

Beneke told the commission he was “not happy with” Anthony Roy, MCCEDC’s interim director, who addressed the commission April 30 about the status of MCCEDC’s director search. Beneke said Roy did this without permission from the board.

“It really reflected poorly on the county and committee,” Beneke said.

When asked whether he had permission to address the commission Monday, Beneke said he was speaking on his own accord.

“So, you’re doing the same thing that you said Anthony (Roy) had no right to do,” Novak told Beneke.

The incident with MCCEDC, Novak said, reflects larger concerns over a divide and a lack of transparency within the county commission.

“The backbone of the commission here is total transparency,” Novak said. “How can you trust people that go behind your back and exclude you?”

Novak said being left out of the MCCEDC director search was “absolutely” part of a concerted effort between commissioners Randy Dallke and Kent Becker to exclude her from the decision-making process — a problem she said she has faced since being elected to the commission.

“It seems I’m always made out to be the culprit,” Novak said.

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