Petitioners are trying once again to recall Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Richard Ranzau.
They filed a second recall petition with county election staff members on Tuesday, contending that Ranzau has rejected his oath of office and the county’s duty to provide for vulnerable residents as outlined in the Kansas Constitution.
“He signed orders refusing public health funds for the poor and for infants and children,” said Mary Ware, a petition sponsor.
The first petition argued Ranzau had rejected the county commission’s duties regarding the protection and promotion of public health through his votes on health department cuts, a federal health grant and a nutrition program for low-income mothers. The county commission also doubles as the board of public health.
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But District Attorney Marc Bennett decided last month that petitioners did not have sufficient legal grounds to start the recall process. Bennett said commissioners are not obligated to vote a certain way and that protecting public health is a collective duty for all five county commissioners.
Petitioners now say Ranzau is individually responsible for his signatures on previous county health orders as commission chairman.
“He is responsible for these orders that we believe fail to comply with his duties,” said Sandrine Lisk, the advocacy director for the Immigrant Advocacy Network.
Ranzau said he is doing nothing wrong when he signs orders that most county commissioners support.
“That’s my job. I’m supposed to sign documents as chairman,” Ranzau said.
The recall petition also says Ranzau disavowed an article in the Kansas Constitution regarding the welfare of “inhabitants who by reason of age, infirmity or other misfortune may have claims upon the aid of society,” based on comments he made to petitioners.
The comments come from a series of e-mails in October between Lisk and Ranzau over proposed changes to the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.
“There is no charity in government welfare programs,” Ranzau wrote in an e-mail dated Oct. 14. “Charity involves voluntary giving. Welfare is government force.”
Ranzau said he has not broken his oath of office by his positions on public health and illegal immigration.
“Being in this country illegally does not provide them any claim on the aid of society,” Ranzau said, referencing the part of the state constitution in question.
Bennett’s office will have to decide whether the second recall effort is legally sufficient within five business days of its filing.
If the district attorney’s office finds the petition legally insufficient, Lisk and other petitioners say they could file another petition or ask the Kansas Supreme Court to order the recall effort to move forward.