Topeka City Council’s Heartland Park frustration grows

TOPEKA (KSNT) – New controversy Friday as efforts by the City of Topeka to quash an initiative petition to force a public vote on the city’s purchase of Heartland Park racetrack.

The latest issued Friday over e-mails between a county lawyer – who gave advice to those for the petition – and City Attorney – who is now trying to block the petition.

The e-mail were first reported by the Topeka Capital-Journal – and now have some city council members upset.

“There are thousands of voices left wondering whether their voices are going to be heard.” Topeka City Councilman Chad Manspeaker told Kansas First News Friday.

Those voices are city residents who signed a petition the city says is invalid.

The question is whether organizers of the petition got good advice.

The city says it didn’t, that the petition was filled with flaws ranging from the wrong language to whether it could legally be done at all.

The man who gave organizers the advice is Richard Eckert – the Shawnee County Counsel.

He tells Kansas First News in a written statement the “..petition substantially complied with all relevant statutory requirements.”

But they came the disclosure he was e-mailing both concerns about the petition, and suggesting legal advice on how to fight it – to city attorney Chad Sublet. .

That leaves one city council members frustrated…and angry..

“When our City Attorney, as he should have, he didn’t have to, said ‘there’s a problem with this, you should not have approved this petition.’,” a frustrated City Councilwoman Karen Hiller said.

Petition organizers are really not surprised

“Whether it was an attempt to frustration our process or not,” says petition organizer Chris Imming, “as long as it doesn’t prohibit us from going forward with the proposal to a vote then we’re good.”

The question now is whether both goals can be accomplished.

“We can examine a handful of options, but I think the city has to act,” said Manspeaker.

He says he’s spent the last several days trying to find a way to appease those who want a public vote on the Heartland Park purchase – while still protecting the city’s finances and credit rating.

He plans to announce those plans sometime Monday.

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