Thursday night's City Council meeting began with heated debate over a sitting Lee's Summit City Council member and ended with a vote to appoint a new member to fill a vacant seat in Council District 4.
The meeting agenda contained just two items, interviews and a vote to select a replacement for the seat previously held by Chris Moreno, who was recalled in the April 4 municipal election. And a Council debate and vote whether to proceed with a hearing to force District 1 Council member Diane Forte over ethics violations.
District 4 Council member Dave Mosby opened the meeting asking Mayor Randy Rhoads to reverse the order of the agenda and begin the meeting with the debate over Forte, saying her vote over the District 4 replacement could be rendered null and void if she were forced to leave office.
The debate stems from business Forte did with the Lee's Summit Parks department after taking office. Forte's business provided trophies for the Parks Board. The transaction exceeded the $500 limit, which should have opened the process up for a public bid. Forte, the City, and the Parks Department have admitted wrong-doing and the City has since made changes to its purchasing processes. Last month, Forte was fined by the Missouri Ethics Commission for the violation.
Public comments included statements concerning Forte from Robert Dye and Steve Lathrop. Dye, who ran against Forte in the District 1 race in 2012 reiterated similar statements he made in the May 4 Council meeting concerning ethics violations by Forte. Lathrop also spoke at the previous meeting and continued his defense of Forte, as well as a plea for the body to move forward from this issue.
District 3 Council member Diane Seif opened Council discussion on the topic citing the oath of office elected officials take and the value she places on it.
"I took an oath for this office when I came to the Council," She said before reading the language. "For me, my integrity and my honesty when it comes to doing this job is very important to me. that's why I have to say there was an oath taking by all of us. An oath taken by people in this chamber. I'm a strong believer in the oath. It's very important to me and I think it should be very important to all the Council members."
Seif's statement was followed by District 3 Council member Phyllis Edson and Mosby. Edson spoke about trust between the public and Council members while Mosby delved into Charter language about ethics and how the Council's actions would set precedent for the City and future Council members.
Mosby, who created public debate during April's election with his open opposition to changes to the City's Charter which for the Council to draft a code of ethics within the next year, said the Council's decision on ethics violations will play an important part in the future of the City.
"We're supposed to develop an ethics code," he said. "That's fine. It's a good thing to do. What we do here determines the validity of that ethics code. We could have an ethics code that lists all kinds of stuff. But if we don't follow rules of law or our charter, that ethics code will be just words. Or, as somebody put it the other day — window dressing."
District 2 Council member Trisha Carlyle said it was time for the Council to move on. Forte did violate the law, she said, but there was no willful intent to conceal the violation and the processes to fix the situation have been public. She said she believed it was time for the Council to move on and "stop with the show."
"When Council member Forte was made aware of the possible violation she had committed, she made us aware the very next day by email and apologized to all of us for unknowingly violating this code," she said.
District 3 Council member Craig Faith offered comments acknowledging the violations and the emotions surrounding the issue both at the dais and in the public conversation. However, he said, there was no evidence of willfully violation or efforts to conceal the violation. Because of that, he said, it was time to vote and move past this issue which has lasted for a year.
When the Council finally got around to a vote, Mosby, Seif and Edson cast affirmative votes to initiate proceedings, while Carlyle, Binney and Faith voted no. In his role as Mayor, Rhoads broke the tie with a "No" vote.
Complete video of the Council meeting can be found here.
Demoro tabbed by Council to fill vacant District 4 seat
The 10 applicants vying to fill the vacant District 4 Council seat each presented their themselves to the Council in 5-minute speeches before taking questions from the Council. After the questioning period, Fred DeMoro, Dana Arth and Gladys Bratton were nominated by Council members for a vote. In the election, DeMoro was selected to fill the post with four votes.
Individual voting for the three candidates were as follows:
- Rob Binney — Dana Arth
- Diane Seif — Fred Demoro
- Dave Mosby — Fred Demoro
- Craig Faith — Fred Demoro
- Phyllis Edson — Fred Demoro
- Diane Forte — Gladys Bratton
- Trisha Carlyle — Gladys Bratton
According to Charter rules, DeMoro will serve on the Council until the next municipal election, which is in April 2018. At that time, a special election will be held allowing for District 4 residents to select a candidate to fill the remainder of the 4-year term.
The remaining applicants for the seat were:
- James Freeman
- Donna Gordon
- Erik Crew
- Michelle Kraxberger
- Casey Crawford
- Jarrod Gravatt
- Amy Fox