Ethics Tops Manchester Board of Aldermen Meeting Monday Night
Board members addressed ethics issues Monday night with a chamber packed full of residents.
It was once again a packed house at Manchester's Board of Aldermen meeting with a number of hot topic items on the agenda, which included Ward 2 Alderman Michael Clement addressing his recent ethics violation.
(Read Previous Story: Manchester Alderman Found In Violation Of Campaign Disclosure Laws)
At the start of the meeting, however, Ward 1 Alderman Bob Tullock postponed from the agenda his resolution to discuss censuring Clement for the ethics violation. He said there may be a legal issue with the resolution, which had been carried over from the Feb. 22 meeting. Board members spoke out, saying they should vote or Tullock should withdraw the resolution so it would not be an ongoing issue. Tullock refused to do either, saying he wanted to make sure the board has the power to censure before introducing the resolution.
"The question is, 'Does the board have the capacity to censure an alderman?'" Tullock told Patch. "That's really a legal question. I am not an attorney. I can't answer that question, but what I am going to do between now and the next board meeting is to look into it and see if we do have that capacity."
However, Clement came prepared for the censure issue to be discussed and possibly voted on. He addressed the board and public near the top of the meeting in a prepared statement, pointing out that it was clear on the 2010 campaign fliers in question that they came from him because his name, phone number, e-mail and face were on them. He said the ethics commission found no fault with the contents of the flyers or who sent them, but he was cited for failing to file an expenditure form to report the cost of producing and mailing the flyers.
"I wasn't quite right there, but the lesson has been learned," Clement said, but said he does not think his behavior was unethical or deserving of a censure.
Clement went on to say it was his fellow aldermen Tullock and Ward One Alderman Hal Roth who displayed unethical behaviors, noting scare tactic campaign flyers and pushing to take crucial votes when board members are absent and he used the Feb. 22 meeting as an example. At the start of that meeting, during which Clement was absent, Tullock and Roth added last minute items to the agenda, including to vote on censuring Clement and to have the city send letters to residents notifying them of Clement's ethics violation.
(Read Previous Story: Another Night of Arguing at the Manchester Board of Aldermen Meeting)
Clement also said the recent filing of ethics complaints against Ward 3 Alderman John Diehl and his wife Carol was an unethical move. Althought not filed by one of the board members, Clement said it was done by one of Tullock's supporters.
Clement received a standing ovation from supportive residents after his comments.
Although Tullock said during the meeting he wanted to review the board's option to censure Clement, after the meeting, Tullock told Patch he did not think Clement's ethics violation was a big deal, but thought the board deserved an apology from Clement.
"There is nothing hugely criminal about this whole thing," Tullock said. "Mike made a mistake. But what I haven't heard yet is an apology for that mistake. We have only heard excuses of why he did this, but I have yet to hear an apology."
Diehl also addressed the board and residents on the issue of ethics, saying he just learned last week that he and his wife each had six complaints filed against them, 12 total, with the Missouri Ethics Commission. He said this is common practice among Tullock and those who support him.
"This is an abuse of state monies and we all know city monies are tight, as well as city resources," Diehl said. "These claims are frivolous."
Diehl also said anyone filing frivolous claims should be held responsible.
Through out the board's discussion, Tullock defended his argument of unethical behavior among board members claiming anyone who violates the law should be held accountable. Board members said no member has broken any law.
The fact the board is devoting so much of its time to discuss election and issues from one year ago is nonsense, said Ward 2 Alderwoman Marilyn Ottenad.
"We have more pressing issues that the people of Manchester elected us to deal with," Ottenad said.
"I can't take this anymore," Mayor David Willson said. He said that he had not planned to address the board or residents regarding the ethics violation issue, but he felt it was necessary to point out Tullock filed numerous ethics violations in the past that were not for legitamate reasons, including several against him when he was running for election.
"It just becomes a time consuming thing, it doesn't make any sense, it's frivolous. I have been involved in this. I understand what everybody's going through. So, let's move on if we can," Willson said.
The meeting moved on to public comment. During this time residents said they also had had enough of the infighting.
"Please either start some progress, or remove yourself so someone can," said Manchester resident and businessman Gary Hoeferkamp.
Resident Lisa Galati said she was starting to seriously consider moving out of Manchester because she could no longer take what her government was doing.
"I'm sorry this is grade school," Galati said. "I don't think that the best is being done for me, and I don't know how to stop it. I think we may move solely because of this."
She then asked the board whom she could contact to report their behavior. Board members had no answer for Galati, but advised her the only solution was voting for her candidate of choice at the upcoming election.
Other residents addressed Tullock directly.
"I am not listening to another word from you," said resident Debra Mizerany to Tullock. "As far as I am concerned, you don't exist to me except to do my damndest to get you out of office."
"My interests aren't being served. The City of Manchester's interests aren't being served," resident Dave Alhoff said. "I have to vote against you. I'm sorry, Bob."
Other resolutions carried over from the Feb 22. meeting, and some new items were also discussed and voted on Monday night.
The resolution directing city staff to mail a letter to all residents informing them of Alderman Clement's ethics violation was on the agenda, but not voted on. There was no "second" from another board member, which is required for any resolution to be voted on. The resolution was introduced by Alderman Tullock, who said a letter was sent to residents in 2005 when there was a similar situation involving Ward 3 Alderman Don Ryan. City Attorney Patrick Gunn said Clement's violation and Ryan's issue were different situations. Gunn said in Ryan's situation, the city sent out a letter clarifying that city staff does not support political candidates, but Clement's violation is for failure to report funds for campaign fliers. Clement is also not a paid city employee.
A resolution to contact the Missouri Attorney General for an opinion on how many board members are required to vote on appointing the board president was voted on and failed 4-3. Mayor Willson broke the tie among board memebers. Alderman Tullock introduced the resolution and wants the opinion from the Missouri Attorney General because he said he was unfairly stripped of his title of board president.
Gun said even if a vote occurred, he did not think the attorney general would get involved in the matter. "My understanding has always been that they only respond to requests by only issued to state representatives or members of the state senate," Gunn said.
"Why are we even considering this when you have sued each one of us individually?" Ottenad asked of the request of the Attorney General's opinion. She was referring to Tullock's current lawsuit against the board citing that he was unfairly stripped of his title as board president.
An ordinance directing city staff to prioritize all storm water projects in order of importance was voted on. It was a 3-3 tie that was broken by Mayor Willson. The bill was defeated 4-3. It was introduced by Alderman Tullock. Opposing board board members said they felt they were not qualified to create a list of priorities that experts should do that and it brought up the issue of eminent domaine that needed to be further discussed.
A resolution to post the city's expenses on the city's website was reintroduced by Alderman Tullock. The bill was reworked after discussion at the Feb. 22 board meeting determined the bill needed some adjustments. will postpone introducing the bill, but would like input from city staff to make it easy to understand what is expected of city employees if it is posted on the site. City Attorney Patrick Gunn also said they should look at other cities posting expenses in their websites and see what works best.
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