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Kansas City Council Approves A Bit More Transparency With City Contracts

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Luke X. Martin KCUR 89.3

Kansas City residents will now be able to see more of how the city spends their money.  

On Thursday, the Kansas City Council voted unanimously to scale back the city manager's power to award contracts for city projects.

Councilman Quinton Lucas, who sponsored the ordinance, said it wasn't prompted by any single contract awarded by the city manager but rather a general effort to promote transparency. 

Before Thursday's vote, City Manager Troy Schulte could award construction contracts valued at more than a $1.3 million without public notice or council approval. 

The new measure rolls that back slightly, requiring contracts of more than $1 million to have council approval.

Even with that reduction, compared to other cities Kansas City still has a high threshold for contracts that can be awarded without council approval. In Denver and Portland, Oregon, the limit is $500,000, according to research from Lucas' office; in Sacramento, and Charlotte, North Carolina, the limit is $100,000.

A previous version of the ordinance would have required the council to authorize all contracts exceeding $500,000. But after weeks of debate, it was sent back to committee so Lucas could further negotiate with Schulte's office. 

"This is the result of a very good amount of consensus," Lucas said. 

The compromise version also requires council authorization for any sole-source professional service contract, such as special legal counsel or consulting services, over $50,000.

It also requires the city manager's office to provide regular reports of the contracts it awards without council authorization. 

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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