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City puts ousted mayor
back in service
All Rhoads lead to Rita

by Deb Hammond
Landmark reporter

She’s back.

Just 10 days after being removed from the position of mayor by court order due to nepotism, Rita Rhoads was back in a position of power at Tracy City Hall.

Rhoads was appointed to the board of aldermen to fill a spot when Alderman Julie Thomas was appointed by the board to be the mayor replacing Rhoads.

So it was a swap of positions.

It all happened at the board of aldermen’s regular monthly meeting last Wednesday night.

Alderman Robert Kaveler beat Thomas to the punch by nominating Thomas to fulfill the recently ousted Mayor Rita Rhodes’ unexpired term.

Kaveler stated he wanted to nominate Thomas before Thomas could nominate him to serve as mayor of Tracy. Thomas asked the board if anyone else was interested in serving as the city's mayor with the response being no.

The board voted unanimously for Thomas to step in as mayor until voters of Tracy go to the polls in April 2013. Rhodes’ original term was not set to expire until April 2014.

Rhodes had been ordered removed by Platte County Circuit Court Judge Lee Hull on July 13 after a trial proved to the court she had committed an act of nepotism by hiring her son-in-law to repair a sign for the city. The penalty for nepotism is to be removed from office.

There is no law that prevents a person removed for nepotism from seeking future public office.

The civil case to remove Rhodes had been filed by Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd after an investigation by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department revealed the nepotism allegations.

The first order of business for the newly appointed mayor of Tracy Julie Thomas was to nominate the former mayor, Rita Rhodes, to finish Thomas' unexpired at-large term as alderman which expires in April of 2013.

Thomas’ appointment of Rhodes as alderman was unanimously confirmed by board members Kaveler, Bobby Roediger and Aaron Bryant.

Immediately following the swearing in of Thomas and Rhodes it was back to addressing the business of the city. Rhodes began reviewing the bills to be paid by the city while the board approved an easement proposed by Bill Mann for land owned by the Missouri State Conservation Commission by unanimous vote.

The board also approved an ordinance appointing Mark Overton as the city's new zoning enforcement officer as well as a reserve police officer. The city will pay Overton a $75 monthly uniform allowance for his reserve officer duties and $40 per month to compensate Overton for his codes enforcement duties.

According to Police Chief Frank Thurman, Overton currently works full-time in the detention center at the Platte County Sheriff's Department and graduated from Missouri Western State University’s officer training program.

Overton grew up in Tracy and both Thurman and Sgt. Beth Taulbee look forward to the extra coverage the new reserve officer will provide to the city. Overton's appointment was effective following the unanimous vote of the board.

In other board actions, there was discussion regarding Water District No. 9's request for a .25/1000 gallon rate increase. According to Thomas, the city is currently waiting on the water district's required substantiation prior to passing the increase onto residents.

The board deducted the increase, which the district included in the most recent bill presented to the city, because the district had yet to provide the substantiation as required by their contract for services.

Platte City recently increased the amount it charges the residents of Tracy for sewage treatment.

The Tracy court clerk requested a new window unit air conditioner and the board approved the purchase not to exceed $350. The board previously approved the purchase of two new window units for the city clerk and the police department last month. Rhodes reported the new units were purchased for $318 and advised Mayor Thomas to be sure and take the city's tax exempt letter in order to not be charged sales tax on the purchase.

City Attorney Lisa Rehard advised the board that there is a conflict with the city's building codes regarding fences and retaining walls. The city will need to refund the permit fees to two residents as a result of the conflict. Rehard also informed the board that the public hearing for the new building codes proposed by the Planning and Zoning committee will occur on Aug. 6 at 6 p.m.

Tracy's annual tax levy will be set by Aug. 15. The tax levy will be on the agenda at the next meeting of the board of alderman. The board was silent as to whether they anticipate an increase in the tax rate this year.