Recall, recruitment efforts start following Goddard city council moves


By Travis Mounts, TSnews

GODDARD – Small city government usually draws minimal interest, both in terms of candidates for office and citizen involvement at meetings.
Usually it takes a specific topic or problem to engage a significant number of citizens. That appears to be the case following last week’s Goddard City Council meeting in which the appointed mayor was ousted (he then resigned from the council), a former mayor who had resigned amidst ethical concerns regarding fundraising was reinstated, two new council members were appointed and the city administrator fired despite a recent positive review and a statewide award.
Since then, there has been a mobilization to recall the newly appointed mayor, Hunter Larkin, and to recruit a slew of candidates for city council elections later this year.
The focal point of these efforts is a new Facebook page called “For Goddard’s Sake.” It was started by former Goddard City Council member Michael Proctor, and has since started drawing in other community organizers.
Proctor resigned his seat late in 2022. He is moving to Park City for family reasons and is no longer eligible to serve. However, he remains highly interested in his longtime hometown, saying something needs to happen.
“I’m sure many Goddard residents feel like their voting power was taken from them single-handedly,” he said.
The ease with which Zimmerman was removed from office stems from a change in the city council’s structure. The council decided to no longer have a separately elected mayor. Instead, the mayor’s position is now chosen by the council from among its five members, similar to how Sedgwick County elects its council president. That made the removal of Zimmerman easy, requiring a simple majority of the council. Zimmerman was the lone dissenting vote in a 4-1 vote.
Proctor said there was friction between city administrator Brian Silcott, whose firing last week was the last among the surprises.
“Both Hunter and (council member) Sarah (Leland), they had a beef with Silcott,” Proctor said, adding that they had opportunities to give negative feedback behind closed doors. “In reality, Brian had done a great job of keeping everything above board. He put the checks in place, as he should, to have an ethically run city.”
Proctor said that the ethics questions that led Larkin to resign as mayor last year play into last week’s drama.
“The campaign finance story is very much intertwined with this,” Proctor said.
He went on to say that Larkin never apologized for his DUI charge or the fundraising efforts.
“It’s hard to take people seriously when they act like that,” Proctor said.
He said that he would like to see all the council members except for Brent Traylor be recalled. He’s not sure if that can be done but said that he believes there is enough for Larkin to be recalled.
Last week’s removal of Zimmerman as mayor and the dismissal of Silcott felt planned by many observers. There were no questions raised by any of the council members, and there seemed to be little surprise or reaction by vice mayor Sarah Leland or new council members Aubrey Collins and Keaton Fish to the surprise moves.
The Kansas Open Meetings Act prohibits any discussions on city topics among a majority of council members when not in open session. The law allows one-on-one discussions, so Larkin and Leland could have potentially discussed plans outside of open meetings. Prior to their appointments to the council, Collins and Keaton would not have been covered by KOMA.
“It’s an absolute violation of the spirit of the law,” Proctor said. “We’ll see what can be done to hand power back to the city, to see who will run the city.”
The For Goddard’s Sake page on Facebook had already topped 1,000 likes by Tuesday. While Proctor started the page, others have become involved.
“For the past week, our community has been part of a larger controversy, that has now garnered national attention. And not the kind of attention we would like to be known for in small-town Kansas. We are better than this,” wrote resident Samantha Blunck, who is administrator of another community Facebook page, Goddard Community Events. “We want residents to know we have a team of hard-working people going to bat for all of us. We are here to be your voice, we are here to offer solutions that works for the people, and we are here to fight for due process.”
Another Goddard resident, Liz Hamor, also posted about efforts to recall Larkin and to hold the city council accountable.
TSnews reached out to Larkin for comment on the council’s actions last week and the new recall effort, but at press time the newspaper had not received a response.
“Today our little town made national news for an embarrassing reason. How about we control the narrative from here on out. I’d much rather see a news story about Goddard citizens proving that their common values of transparency and ethical integrity are greater than their differences in a bipartisan effort to remove the mayor,” Hamor wrote. “It’s the true story of this page and the small, behind-the-scenes team who are working across factions. It’s the true story of our community. We’re stronger together and are uniting with a common purpose to hold our city council accountable.”
The news website The Daily Beast and cable channel MSNBC have given coverage to this story.
A public event is planned for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6, ahead of the next Goddard City Council meeting, which will be at 7 p.m. that evening. At press time, a location had not been announced.