by Ivan Foley
Continued complaints about the police chief. Some speakers defending the chief. Lawsuits filed against the police chief and one alderman.
Though the atmosphere was down a notch on the chaos meter compared to last month when Platte County Sheriff’s Department deputies were called in to help clear City Hall of attendees, there was still plenty of drama at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Ferrelview Board of Trustees.
After a lengthy audience participation on police matters followed by a lengthy closed session, the night ended with the chairman of the board of trustees saying the board is standing behind Daniel Clayton, police chief.
“I think he does a great job,” said Steve Carr, board chairman. “I think most of the people he stopped were doing something wrong.”
Carr added: “He is intimidating. He’s a big guy. That’s what we needed. It was getting wild.”
The night opened with the board confirming what The Landmark had reported on Twitter a day earlier: Scott Campbell is out as Ferrelview’s city attorney and municipal court prosecutor. On Monday afternoon, Campbell told The Landmark he was “typing my resignation letter this afternoon.” Campbell declined any further comment.
To open Tuesday night’s meeting, Carr announced that Campbell had resigned and that Robert Megraw of the William Quitmeier law firm is the new city attorney.
Megraw had a scheduling conflict Tuesday and couldn’t be at the Ferrelview meeting, so Quitmeier filled in.
In a written statement presented to the media, Megraw said “the board has made it very clear to me that their number one priority is the long term best interests of the village and the safety of its citizens. In keeping with those ideals, each of them decidedly asserted that Police Chief Daniel Clayton is the best officer they have ever hired. They say that Clayton cares more about his job and people he serves and puts in more hours than any single officer in their memories.”
Clayton is the first full time officer employed by the village in quite some time, Megraw said. At Tuesday night’s meeting it was announced that Clayton is paid $15 per hour.
“He writes a disproportionate share of citations because he works a disproportionate share of hours,” Megraw added.
“Ferrelview has long had the reputation for being a hotbed for criminal activity,” Megraw claimed in his statement. “Chief Clayton was hired to address that reputation. Anytime there is a regime change--government or otherwise--and policy changes, there will always be a faction of individuals who are displeased. This is simply human nature. Over time, people will acclimate and things will normalize.”
Clayton was hired over a year ago. Although an attorney representing citizens who are upset with Clayton spoke of red flags in Clayton’s background at his previous places of employment, Carr said he was comfortable that Ferrelview had done its due diligence in reviewing Clayton prior to hiring him.
“He came highly recommended,” Carr told The Landmark.
Dennis Rowland, an attorney based in Kansas City whose son, a process server, is one of those who claimed to be “harassed” by Clayton during a traffic stop, has filed two lawsuits involving Ferrelview. One is against Clayton, accusing the chief of ripping down posted flyers on private property. Those flyers were asking residents with complaints about Clayton to show up at the May board meeting.
The other lawsuit is a defamation suit against board member Frank Baumann for comments Baumann allegedly made about the people who are filing complaints against the police chief.
Rowland had his son serve court papers to Clayton and Baumann during Tuesday night’s meeting, a move that was immediately criticized by Quitmeier, who referred to the action as being “a show” to embarrass the parties involved.
Some residents of Ferrelview, population 450, are also collecting signatures in an attempt to force a state audit of the city. Petition leaders said Tuesday night they have “around 40” of the necessary 67 valid signatures that would force a state audit.
BOTH SIDES REPRESENTED
Critics reiterated some of their concerns Tuesday night, just as many had done at the meeting in May.
“He’s out of control as far as an officer goes,” said Rhonda O’Connor, a Ferrelview resident.
Some others, including Deborah Moseley, spoke in favor of the chief:
“Officer Clayton is very vigilant,” she said.
According to monthly stats listed for the board by Clayton, there were 55 traffic stops in May. There were 65 citations issued, 17 warnings and five arrests.
In an interview after the meeting, Clayton told The Landmark:
“I’m firm but fair. You stop somebody for doing something, that’s what it’s considered these days, harassment, not doing your job.”
Clayton said he treats those he stops with respect. He denied accusations that he is “overzealous.”
“You don’t see this happen in bigger municipalities. I mean, come on,” he said.
Asked what effect the recent controversy has had on him, Clayton replied: “It’s getting bad. Everything’s not factual.”
He described Tuesday night’s meeting as “crazy.”
“People have their own personal opinions about the police and that’s fine,” he said.
City officials say they have forwarded written complaints that they have received about Clayton to the Platte County Sheriff to review. There has been no written report on those investigations returned to the city as of yet, Carr said.
Clayton said he has received no indication from the sheriff’s department that investigators feel he has done anything wrong.