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Voters Approve The First Step In Changing The Shape Of Clay County Government

Aviva Okeson-Haberman
KCUR 89.3 file photo
Clay County's current three-member commission could be expanded under a new county constitution.

Once a new constitution is drafted, voters will get the final say on changes to remake government in Clay County.

Clay County voters made the first step Tuesday toward changing the county’s form of government, a move that came from mounting frustration over controversy surrounding the county commission.

The commission has faced one scandal after another, ranging from its resistance to an audit requested by citizens, the use of outside lawyers to defend jail cuts and the removal of public comment during its meetings.

About 57% of voters gave the green light to set up a commission to create a county constitution. Judges in the 7th Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri will appoint a 14-member commission within roughly two months. From there, the commission has about a year to write the document.

Proposition C’s approval doesn’t mean a new form of government will necessarily happen. In 2013, voters defeated restructuring the government in part due to concerns that the proposed constitution was illegal.

An advisory panel formed late last year suggested expanding the number of commissioners from three to at least eight, making elected offices nonpartisan and creating a way to remove commissioners from office.

Opponents of Proposition C will be looking to see if the constitution gets rid of elected positions, such as the clerk and auditor, in favor of appointed positions. Those elected officials have been critical of the commission and opponents worry people appointed by commissioners won’t be independent.

Turnout was slightly lower than last year’s municipal election with about 12% of registered voters casting a ballot.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman was the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3.
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