Ark City Daily Bytes received two letters from citizens this week concerning the vacancy on the Cowley College Board of Trustees.
This seat has been vacant since former trustee Sid Regnier resigned March 13 with more than two years left in his term.
More than 240 days have passed since his resignation, but the seat still has not been filled.
The letters received this week address how to fill the seat in light of the Nov. 7 election results.
Both urge the college trustees to select Michael Bergagnini to fill the position, since he was the highest vote-getter among the trustee candidates who were not elected.
Bergagnini received 1,115 votes in the election, finishing fifth after former county commissioner Gary Wilson.
Process to fill vacancies
In August, Cowley College President Dennis Rittle released the following statement regarding the vacated seat:
“Currently, the (Cowley College) Board of Trustees has not decided on a specific course of action related to filling the vacant seat, which was held by former trustee Mr. Sid Regnier.
“The trustees plan to wait until after the general election in November before making a decision on this matter.”
The board is obligated by state law to publish a notice in a newspaper that has general circulation within the community college district, stating that the vacancy has occurred.
Following that publication, the trustees cannot appoint anyone to the seat until 15 days have elapsed.
“The statute does not specify how soon after vacancy the publication must take place, nor does the statute set forth a time frame in which the vacancy must be filled,” said Cowley County Attorney Larry Schwartz.
Bergagnini throws name in hat
The first letter Daily Bytes received was from Bergagnini himself.
“It is far beyond the time where the board should have filled the position vacated by Sid Regnier last March,” he said in his email.
“I believe that I would be a good trustee, and over 1,000 of the Cowley citizens casting a vote agreed.”
In the letter, which is addressed to the board and board secretary Tiffany Vollmer, he outlines his qualifications to be a board member, which include his work experience and his longstanding mayorship of Parkerfield.
“I would like to apply for consideration in filling the Board vacancy created by the Sid Regnier resignation,” Bergagnini writes.
“To my understanding, this position is still vacant and is to be filled by Board appointment. I also understand that, to date, no applications for this position have been received.”
Schneider supports friend
The second letter Daily Bytes received came from Richard “Dick” Schneider, who also lives in Parkerfield.
He referenced the recent election as well: “The election was a week ago. Those results will never be more relevant or useful than they are now.”
“My good friend, Michael Bergagnini, received 1,115 votes in the Nov. 7 election,” Schneider added. “That is just 177 votes fewer than the newest trustee, Gary Wilson. Mike was the only other candidate to receive more than 1,000 votes, proving that he has more of a mandate than just from the Arkansas City-Parkerfield area.”
Schneider goes on to say that Bergagnini is the “only candidate” that the Board of Trustees should consider.
“I call upon the college trustees to appoint Mike Bergagnini to the vacancy no later than their Dec. 18 meeting so he can take office in January with the rest of the newly elected trustees,” Schneider writes.
In addition, he requested that other citizens write similar letters to make their opinions known.
“We still have a vacancy to fill, and it has stayed open for far too long. Now is the time for the trustees to act,” Schneider said.
He also called out the need for change in the Kansas statute that governs the way community colleges have to fill vacancies.
“In my opinion, there is no doubt that Kansas statute needs to be amended to put the same requirement to fill a vacancy on all taxing boards that the City Commission (of Arkansas City) currently has to follow,” Schneider writes. State law requires cities to fill vacancies within 10 days, although Arkansas City has chartered out of that requirement and amended it to 30 days.
“I certainly hope Rep. Anita Judd-Jenkins and Sen. Larry Alley will consider sponsoring legislation next year to do just that,” Schneider said.