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Mayor Says Secretary of State Violated Supreme Court Order

Mayor Quinton Lucas alleges that Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft moved a ballot measure to force Kansas City to pay more for its police to a different date than the top state court ordered.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas speaks during a Fentanyl Summit at the Kansas City Health Department on Dec. 8, 2023, in Kansas City, Missouri. Local officials addressed the overdose epidemic, discussing ongoing efforts, including a public education campaign and an ordinance mandating prompt overdose reporting.
(Emily Curiel/The Kansas City Star/TNS)
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas wants Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft held in contempt of court for certifying a measure forcing Kansas City to pay more for its police on the August ballot instead of the November date ordered by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Lucas argues in court filings that Ashcroft, a Republican running for governor, acted in “direct defiance” of the state Supreme Court when he certified the measure for Aug. 6. The mayor wants the court to block Ashcroft’s decision so the election can be held in November.

“Should the secretary of state proceed on his current track, he will be defying this Court’s orders and depriving this Court of its authority under the law,” attorneys for Lucas wrote in the Friday court filing. “But the secretary is not above the law, and he ought not be permitted to defy it.”

Lucas’ filing comes after the state Supreme Court in April tossed the results of a 2022 vote in which Missourians overwhelmingly approved the measure, called Amendment 4. The court ordered that a new election would be held on Nov. 5.

But Republican Gov. Mike Parson rejected that date last week and sent a proclamation to Ashcroft’s office that moved the election date to Aug. 6. Ashcroft’s office then certified the measure for August.

Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who is defending Ashcroft in the case, argued that the court should dismiss Lucas’ filing. Parson, Bailey argued, was within his powers to move the election date and Ashcroft was executing that decision.

“The Secretary of State has not taken, and will not take any unlawful action,” Bailey said in a response on Saturday. “He is executing his nondiscretionary duties pursuant to Governor Parson’s lawful exercise of constitutional authority to set or move the date of an election on a constitutional amendment.”

The legal wrangling is the latest in a string of court battles between Lucas and Missouri officials over the measure forcing Kansas City to spend more on its police.

It comes as Kansas City, which is more diverse and progressive than the rest of the state, remains the only city in Missouri that does not directly control its police force. A five-member board of police commissioners oversees the department. The governor appoints four while Lucas fills the remaining spot.

The proposed constitutional amendment would require Kansas City to increase the amount of general revenue it spends on its police department from 20 percent to 25 percent. The measure has faced intense criticism from Kansas City officials who argue voters across the state shouldn’t decide how a municipality makes public safety decisions.

The state Supreme Court’s April decision to toss the election results came after more than 63 percent of Missouri voters approved the measure in November 2022.

The ruling was unprecedented and marked a major victory for Lucas, who sued over the ballot question last year arguing that voters were misled at the ballot box. A majority of the court agreed.

Judge Paul C. Wilson wrote in the April opinion that the financial estimates on the ballot question voters saw in 2022 failed to “concisely and accurately advise voters” of its impact on Kansas City.

The state Supreme Court ordered a do-over election in November with a new, more accurate ballot question. However, Lucas is also pushing the court to amend a portion of the new ballot question.

Lucas argues that the question ordered by the court implies that it would allow a state law passed by Missouri lawmakers forcing Kansas City to spend more on police to retroactively take effect.

Removing that language, Lucas argued, would eliminate any suggestion that the Supreme Court has decided whether the ballot measure would allow that state law to be enforced.

The state Supreme Court could rule on Lucas’ motions as early as Tuesday, which is when the court is scheduled to release its next hand-down of decisions.

©2024 The Kansas City Star. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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