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Statement from City Manager Jim Colson

To all those who are invested in and care about this issue,

We appreciate and acknowledge your efforts.

In our continuing effort make the best decisions for the City of Topeka, and to ensure the integrity and validity of the petition process, the City engaged a third party to evaluate the petition we received earlier this week.

The opinion of the third party, Lathrop & Gage, is that the petition is invalid, preventing the governing body from moving forward with an election at this time.

Based on substantive and procedural issues with the petition, the City is asking the court to make a judicial determination on the petition’s validity. This action will only protect the integrity and legitimacy of the petition process.

Our plan is to file a motion for declaratory judgment with Shawnee County District Court in the quickest manner possible. At that time, legal details will become public, and we will release that information.

If the court determines this is a lawful petition, we will proceed accordingly, and take the issue back to the governing body to determine the next steps.

This action is our effort to protect the substantial amount of taxpayer dollars at risk. A court opinion is essential to clarify the issue for all parties.

Commonly Asked Questions

What does the City mean by “substantive and procedural issues” with the petition?
In order to ensure the integrity and the validity of the process, the City contacted a third party, Lathrop & Gage. They identified items that do not meet specific statutory requirements. The opinion letter is attached.

When did the City identify issues with the petition, and what steps did the City take to remedy the issues?
The City became aware of the issues in late August. City officials notified the appropriate officials at that time.

If the City identified issues with the petition, why didn’t the City notify Chris Imming (the petitioner) directly?
Ethically, the City cannot give legal advice to any private citizen. Another body maintains that statutory authority.

What timeline can we expect?
The City has 20 days to file with the court, but plans to do so by the beginning of next week. At that point, we are asking that the court follow the 20 day statutory guideline on issuing a judgment.

What does this mean for the Heartland Park deal?
We won’t know the answer to that question until after we receive the court’s decision.

What options does the City have should the petition be found valid?
The governing body can vote to repeal the ordinance in question, or they can decide to schedule an election. Our governing body is the only party with authority to call an election on this issue.

When would the election be held?
The governing body would only call an election after the appropriate court determination. The City has been told the County requires a 90 to 120 day notice depending on the type of election.

How much would an election cost, and who would pay?
The City would bear the cost of an election. We have been told it would cost $168- to $200-thousand dollars.

What did the City Clerk’s internal certification process involve?
Upon receiving the petition back from the County election office, our City Clerk developed a certification form, verified the County’s certification, and approved receipt of the petition.

Background

The City is in the process of purchasing Heartland Park Topeka and expanding the STAR Bond district that currently encompasses the Heartland Park property.

On August 12, 2014, the City Council voted to approve the purchase of Heartland Park and the STAR Bond district expansion. This acquisition will allow the City to meet its ongoing debt obligation associated with Heartland Park. If the plan does not move forward, the City will face an $8 million shortfall in the coming decade.

Expanding the STAR Bond district simply means the State's portion of the taxes levied on the properties in the district will be reallocated to the City. The deal will not raise taxes or create any new taxes

Under the proposed plan, the City will meet its financial obligations without having to raise any taxes.

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