to get Dan Leap
by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
Dan Leap doesnt know what to make of being compared
to the infamous Al Capone, but hes learned that in politics, almost
The Merriam, KS council member has been the target of a recall initiative
since December where three petitions have failed the test to be placed
on the April ballot. The last petition was denied due to signatures that
were invalid, either because of voter registration status or due to residency
issues. Other signatures were deemed invalid because the committee filing
the recall did not submit a list of sponsors before collecting signatures.
If the recall eventually passes, Leap will only be the third elected official
recalled in Johnson County, KS history. Two previous recalls in 2001 and
2003 were also Merriam council members.
Leaps political foes first submitted a recall petition to the countys
District Attorney Paul Morrison on Dec. 23. The original petition cited
numerous reasons that the Ward II council member should be removed from
However, Morrison did not believe that the petitions reasons met
the statutes for recall in Kansas. On Dec. 30, a second petition was filed
and was again denied.
The third petition was filed on Jan. 14, citing that Leap had missed 25
percent of council meetings, work sessions and committee meetings.
Its like Al Capone, the government couldnt
get him on murder, so they got him on tax evasion, said Carol Wymer,
one of the sponsors of the recall petition. The missed meetings
is what will carry the petition, so thats the reason we are citing.
Wymer says that there are other reasons for some of Leaps constituents
to force the recall.
You dont get into office to push your own agenda
and thats what hes (Leap) done, said Wymer. Im
not for recalls, but because of his stance and not wanting to vote things
in, he votes no just because he can.
According to Leap, his own agenda has actually been what he
believes are the feelings of the majority of his constituents. Leap, who
owns Mechanical Art and lives in a loft above his business on Merriam
Lane, said that he ran for office two years ago to serve the interest
of the people of Ward II and make sure their voices were heard.
Leap believes the recall really stems from political foes upset over his
lack of support for the downtown revitalization project currently underway
in Merriam. Leap said that he was against spending $2 million to narrow
a street that had been widened in a previous renovation.
I had signatures from 58 business owners that didnt want to
narrow the street, said Leap. Theyre all for beautification,
but theyre not for narrowing the street or wasting taxpayers
Leap admits that due to scheduling conflicts, he has missed seven meetings
two council meetings and the rest were a combination of work sessions,
special meetings and committee meetings in a two-year period. However,
he contends that his detractors conveniently selected the period between
August 2004 and December 2004 to get the 25 percent of meetings missed
because he had only missed two meetings prior to that time.
I missed one committee meeting because I was reassigned to that
committee and the meeting was on a night when I couldnt change previously
scheduled plans, said Leap. One of the meetings, a dinner
training session, was optional as I understood it.
An email from City Administrator Quinn Bennion indicates the Nov. 17 Boards
and Commission Dinner Training was optional. Council is invited
to attend if they can, Bennion wrote. No problem if you cant
The meetings are nothing we have to dispute or quibble over,
said Wymer. The statute said it was important enough and that question
is null and void.
Although Wymer said that the meetings are the primary reason that she
would like to see Leap recalled, she cites that Leap allegedly broke codes
and blatantly disregards the law.
When campaigning, he rode around city streets in a golf cart, and
its illegal to ride in a golf cart on a city street, said
Wymer also cites incidents last year when Leap was ticketed
for having signs or attention getting devices displayed on his business.
Leap said for the past several years, he has put up large inflatable holiday
decorations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays
throughout the year. The inflatable pumpkins, snowmen and other symbols
do not have his business name, nor carry any kind of a message and are
not unlike inflatables that people put in their yards. The citation was
Gary Glenn, the councilman elected in 1999 in Ward IV and who was eventually
recalled in 2003, said that there are other factors at work in Merriam
and the latest recall drive is just Merriam politics as usual.
Dan Leap is one of the few people to actually represent the citizens
of Merriam, said Glenn. Hes consistently been one of
the few who has voted against giving taxpayer dollars to developers.
Glenn was recalled because political foes launched a campaign alleging
that he and another council member, Marsha Williams, had spent city money
on a personal website. Glenn still contends that the allowance was given
to council members to maintain Internet services and that
the website was developed to maintain communication with his constituents.
Glenn and Williams were often vocal opponents of condemning property using
imminent domain for the benefit of a private enterprise, most notably
for Baron BMW to expand its facilities off of Shawnee Mission Parkway.
Glenn said he finds it more than coincidental that Leap vocally opposed
a new residential development due to its high-density plan and that Doug
Patterson, an Overland Park attorney, represented the developers on the
project. Patterson now represents the leaders of the recall drive. Wymer
said that a group of people in Merriam is paying Patterson for his services,
but added, Im not paying him.
Leap said that his seat on the council has cost him plenty. Over a six-month
period last year, the windows of his business were broken four times.
Once, a rock was even thrown through the second floor window of the building
into his loft home.
It sounded like a bomb every time one of the windows got broke,
said Leap. It was really pretty scary because I didnt know
if someone was going to harm me or my family personally.
Leap purchased about $3,000 in surveillance equipment and police finally
caught the guilty party, a 73-year-old man. However, Leap said the campaign
to smear him had already begun. One of his political enemies, Carol Wymers
husband, Jim, who also sits on the council and is currently seeking reelection,
was quoted in a local media outlet as saying that Leap was breaking his
own windows to gain attention and sympathy from the public.
Leap has also used his own personal funds to hire an attorney to fight
the recall attempt.
Wymer denies that there is any personal vendetta against Leap.
I dont have anything against Dan, hes been
in my home and even helped my husband with his campaign (four years ago),
said Wymer. Since he is suppose to represent me as part of Merriam
he is not and I got a pulse of the city and didnt
go into this with my own agenda.
Wymer said that she doesnt want to wait for another election because
that would mean waiting two more years and with him on the council,
they are just fighting and squabbling and he is holding things up.
Wymer added that Leaps opposition to projects is costing
the city more than the recall election would. According to the Johnson
County Election office, a special election would cost an estimated $1.50
Leap said that the recall attempt has been frustrating and tiring. I
was really depressed after the third time, said Leap. But
one of my constituents called and invited me to his property; he made
a sign that said Keep Leap.
Leap said another of his constituents called and offered to donate to
have the signs made. Leap said once he started walking the streets of
his ward and talking to voters, he found that many people still supported
him. By mid January, Ward II of Merriam was a field of red Keep
I was elected with 69 percent of the vote and I feel I should represent
the people until my term is up, Leap said. I dont know
if I will run for re-election, but Im in it until the people say
Wymer doesnt think Leaps support is as widespread as he contends.
Ive talked to people who came home and had a sign in their
front yard, others are not registered voters or the property is rental
property where people arent registered to vote, she said.
Leap recently had about 60 people attend a party he threw in celebration
of the most recent recall petition failure. I dont know if
theyll try for a third time, I hope its three strikes and theyre
out, said Leap.
However, Wymer promises the recall is not over. It might be delayed,
but its not over, Wymer said. All we want to do is put it
to the people on a ballot.
Wymer and her group need 156 valid signatures in a ward with
approximately 1,300 residents. If they collect enough valid signatures,
the recall will be scheduled as a special election.
Leap is keeping his signs, just in case.
RECALLS IN JOHNSON COUNTY
Until 2001, Johnson County had not been host to a successful recall petition.
However, since that time, two Merriam City Council members have been successfully
recalled and two council members in Spring Hill will be on the ballot
for recall in April.
When asked if he thought recall petitions were too easy to mount in Kansas,
Brian Newby, election commissioner in Johnson County, said, I know
that people at the secretary of states office have feelings about
the reasons we are seeing recalls. I just wonder if its a fall out
of the four-year terms we see so often now.
Like Leaps recall, the petitions in Spring Hill were first denied
on technical grounds.