Jackson County Legislative Meeting Devolves Into Raised Voices And Threats Of Lawsuits

Jan 8, 2018

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker (center) and County Executive Frank White are battling over who will control the COMBAT anti-drug program.
Credit Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The first part of the regular Monday meeting of the Jackson County Legislature was perfunctory, nothing but routine county business.

By the end voices had been raised, the county's lawyer was pacing and it appeared the Legislature and County Executive were going to court to settle who controls the anti-drug program known as COMBAT.

Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker stirred the pot when she told lawmakers that despite a new ordinance that gave her control of the fund, county employees were not responding to her authority. County Executive Frank White vetoed the law but he was overridden by the Legislature. "I am unable to follow the directive," Baker told the Legislature. "I have no actual authority here."

White says he is relying on a legal opinion from an outside law firm that says the COMBAT ordinance violates the county charter. Something County Counselor Steve Nixon agrees with. "It says what it says and has ambiguities throughout it."

Legislators immediately pounced on White. "To ignore this is very problematic," Legislator Dennis Waits said. 

Legislator Garry Baker said White has to try harder to get along with the legislature and the rest of county government. Baker was frustrated over what could be a court fight over the COMBAT ordinance. "There is a lot of legal mumbo jumbo going on here," he said.

Legislator Crystal Williams says important county work isn't getting done. "People are just so frustrated by the cataclysmic crap that's going on."  

It appears the issue over who controls COMBAT will end up in court. The Legislature says it is ready to appropriate funds to hire an outside lawyer to represent them. White says he's ready for a lawsuit.

Baker says the county is struggling right now to function and says anything spent on a lawsuit is a waste of taxpayer money. "When we're not doing the business of Jackson County of course it's a waste of money. Of course it is."

Sam Zeff is KCUR's Metro Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.

Sophie Spencer-Zavos contributed to this report.