A replacement for former Cowley College trustee Sid Regnier has not yet been named, nor will a new trustee be appointed before the completion of the fall elections.
Regnier resigned his post March 13, 2017, with more than two years left in his term. Twenty-one weeks now have passed since his resignation.
“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,” said Cowley College President Dennis Rittle.
“The trustees plan to wait until after the general election in November before making a decision on this matter.”
The board is obligated to publish a notice in a newspaper that has general circulation within the community college district, stating the vacancy has occurred, according to Kansas statute.
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.
Recent trustees precedent
The college had to fill another vacated board seat a year ago, when former trustee Jim Ramirez resigned his post May 4, 2016.
After Ramirez vacated his seat, the college trustees set a recent precedent for trustee replacement when they voted to appoint current trustee Jill Long just shy of 11 weeks later, on July 18.
But that vote was done by secret ballot and ultimately had to be redone in an open vote on July 25.
The board later was found by former county attorney Chris Smith to have violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) with its secret vote and the trustees were ordered to attend mandatory KOMA training.
AG: Not an election matter
In 2011, another Kansas community college experienced the resignation of two trustees.
Independence Community College then inquired of the Kansas Attorney General’s Office if it could add those seats to the ballot for the next election.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt subsequently determined that the college’s board of trustees was charged by state statute with filling the vacancies after providing public notice.
He determined that the remaining trustees had no statutory authority to place the matter before the voters.
Thus, Regnier’s seat cannot be added to the ballot in November’s election. It must be filled by an appointment for the remaining two-plus years.