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Thomas removed as chair of Kent City Council Operations Committee

A dust-up on the Kent City Council over property taxes resulted in Councilman Les Thomas losing his position as chair of the Operations Committee.

Council President Jamie Perry told Thomas before the July 5 meeting he would be removed as chair of Operations.

The council president has the authority to appoint and remove the chairs and members of committees.

Councilwoman Debbie Raplee was appointed to the position.

The issue arose over Thomas making a motion at the June 21 council meeting requesting the members consider a reduction in the 2012 property tax assessment from $1.48 per 1,000 to $1.10 per $1,000. There was also an amendment made to the motion that would have sent the issue to the Operations Committee. Both the amendment and original motion failed on a 4-2 vote with Thomas and Councilman Ron Harmon voting yes.

Perry and members Elizabeth Albertson, Deborah Ranniger and Raplee voted no. Councilman Dennis Higgins was not present at the meeting.

The property tax issue had been a point of debate the past few months. After the fire department left the city and formed the Regional Fire Authority in 2010, about $5 million in property taxes that would have been used for the fire department went to help balance the budget and provide city services.

Some business owners and residents felt the funds should not have been collected, but, city officials have stated the money was needed.

The city had the authority to collect the property taxes and use them to balance the budget.

The flare-up over Thomas' motion centered on the procedure of bringing the issue to the council before it went through committee.

At the July 5 meeting, Ranniger noted the council had a "protocol of no surprises."

Thomas said by phone July 14, "It's made me kind of a lightning rod. I really didn't do anything wrong. Any council member can bring up any issue they want."

Perry said Tuesday, "There are council procedures that have been set by resolution."

The council president said the process of bringing issues to committees first before presenting them to the full council allows, "everyone a chance to know what is going on. You have to be honest with other council members."

Thomas said he brought it to the full council because he knew he didn't have the votes to get it out of the Operations Committee, so, he felt he had no other option.

"What really hurt was I have never turned down a council member's request to go back to committee," Thomas said. "I have never seen a council turn down a fellow council member's request to take it back to committee. Several council members let their emotions get the better of them."

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