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Petition seeks councilwoman’s ouster

Staff writer

A recall petition is being circulated by Marion’s mayor, his wife, and four other people — two of whom are the mother and daughter of interim city clerk Becky Makovec — in an effort to oust Marion city council member Ruth Herbel.

If 201 valid signatures are gathered within 30 days and verified within the next 30 days, the soonest a special election could be held would be four days after the deadline for anyone wanting to run for Herbel’s council seat to file for election.

The names of the petition sponsors, given to county clerk Tina Spencer today, include Marion mayor David Mayfield; his wife, Jami; Kathern Swan; Margaret Wilson; Morgan Makovec Looney; and Marion electric supervisor Steve Hart.

Swan is the mother of interim city clerk Becky Makovec. Looney is Makovec’s daughter.

A special election would cost the city $4,000, county clerk Tina Spencer said.

The petition says the recall is sought on grounds of “misconduct in office: (1) violation of KSA 75-4317 Kansas Open Meetings Act by texting councilors Zach Collett, Christ (sic) Costello and Jerry Kline on Nov. 3 at 3:16 p.m., which is considered a serial meeting and (2) violating City Code 1-401 Oath of Office by revealing Executive session information regarding employee personnel information and attorney client privilege information to the public, via Eric Meyer with Marion County Record.”

In a statement, Herbel said: “I ran on honesty, transparency, and integrity. I stand by my principles regardless of the outcome.”

For his part, Meyer denied that Herbel had violated state law, saying in a statement: “The allegation that Ruth Herbel communicated to me any information from any executive session called for attorney-client privilege is a complete fabrication.

“The only information she provided me was from executive sessions that, under state law, were illegally called and that, under law, she was free to discuss with anyone.

“The sole factual basis for the recall petition appears to be that she once accidentally hit ‘reply all’ on an email last fall.”

The petition was submitted to Spencer on Jan. 30. As required by law, she then submitted it to county attorney Joel Ensey for verification that it met requirements to be circulated. Spencer notified the petition sponsors that it could be circulated Wednesday.

For a signature to be valid, the signer must be a registered voter living in Marion. If 201 valid signatures are gathered by March 10, the 30 days allowed by law, Spencer has 30 days to have the signatures verified.

If 201 signatures are valid, an election could be conducted within 60 to 90 days, between June 5 and July 5.

Herbel’s term in office expires next January. Spencer said anyone interested in running for her council seat could file for election by June 1.

Herbel, elected in 2019 with 304 votes, is in the last year of her term.

If she were to be ousted in a July 5 election at a cost of $4,000, it would cut less than six months off her term.

Mayfield also is in the last year of his term.

Becky Makovec figured in the council’s firing of city administrator Mark Skiles last month.

Among other things, Herbel told the Record at the time that one of the pieces of evidence used against Skiles was that he had shown Makovec a photo, not pornographic in nature, of a scantily clad downtown Marion business person who formerly had worked as a professional model in adult films.

Last modified Feb. 9, 2023

 

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