The Geary County Commission owes the public some answers.

A potential conflict of interest is brewing, and elected officials are not talking. They owe it to you, the taxpayers who voted them into office, to at least show you enough respect to address the issue. The voters of Geary County put them in a position to lead. If they are unable to do so with transparency, citizens of this county should be sure to keep that in mind when heading to the polls next time each of them is up for re-election.

As we reported on Aug. 1, if an agreement is not met between the County Commission and the Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce by Dec. 31, the Geary County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) will leave the Chamber of Commerce and once again become a county entity. Current CVB Director Michele Stimatze is married to Geary County Commissioner Charles Stimatze.

Neither of the Stimatze would comment on the potential conflict of interest if Michele Stimatze becomes a county department head who reports to the commission of which her husband is a member. County Commissioner Ben Bennett also did not comment. Commissioner Keith Ascher correctly pointed out that there is no current conflict of interest since Michele currently reports to the Chamber, but said he’s been assured by County Counselor Steve Opat that there are “alternatives” that would negate the conflict of interest concern.

Opat spoke to the Daily Union Tuesday and cited attorney-client privilege as his reasoning for not acknowledging the situation. He could neither confirm nor deny that he had spoken with Commissioners on this subject, and also could not acknowledge whether he viewed the potential situation as a conflict of interest.

When the issue first came to a vote June 26, Ascher and Charles Stimatze voted in favor of issuing notice to withdraw from the Chamber with Bennett voting against. Stimatze without question should have recused himself from voting on the issue. We believe that the county commission has a responsibility — and should show some respect — to the voters and taxpayers of Geary County to outline their plan for how to handle this situation if the CVB becomes a county entity.

— The Daily Union

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