elba McAuley has stepped down as mayor of Dearborn. Last Thursday, McAuley announced that she has resigned, a move that became effective Friday, June 25.
Donald Swanstone, Jr, president of the city’s board of aldermen, is now the acting mayor of the city.
After weeks of bitter public debate over alleged abuses in the city’s overtime payment structure, facing a potential state audit and scrutiny for a possible violation of the state’s Sunshine Law, McAuley said she believes she “can no longer be effective in the role of mayor.”
In a brief letter addressed to the city’s board of aldermen and residents of the city, McAuley said she feels there is a climate of negativity in the city and asked to stay on the city’s park board.
The letter reads as follows:
“I am tendering my resignation as mayor of Dearborn, effective Friday, June 25, 2004. I feel I can no longer be effective in the role of mayor under the current circumstances. I ran for the position of mayor to accomplish positive things for the betterment of Dearborn. I do not feel that what is currently going on is positive. I will not take part in airing negative comments that adversely affect the image of Dearborn, regardless of whom they are against. I feel confident the City of Dearborn will do as well with the state audit as with the yearly audit — we have very competent, hard working employees as well as a very efficient Board of Aldermen. I would like, with the board’s approval, to stay on the park board, as the development of the new park was in large part my reason for running for mayor. I still feel this is a very positive, and much needed, amenity.”
When reached by The Landmark, Swanstone refused comment, only saying that he is still under a doctor’s care and will not preside over a Dearborn Board of Aldermen meeting until at least August. Swanstone is currently recovering from heart surgery.
Alderman Bill Edwards, a vocal opponent of the mayor and the man responsible for starting a petition to force a state audit of the city’s finances, said that he had only heard rumors of McAuley’s resignation.
“Nobody has officially told me anything,” Edwards said. After hearing the contents of McAuley’s resignation letter, Edwards said the resignation was a classic example of the maxim “if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.”
“When you get elected to public office, if you can’t take the heat, then you resign,” Edwards said.
Edwards, one of the town’s four city council members, says he is specifically concerned with the employment contract of K.C. Davidson, who is guaranteed to be paid for 50 hours of work per week, with 10 hours at an overtime rate. In addition, the city employs Billy Clay Davidson for 40 contracted hours and Fred Dovel for another six. Edwards doesn’t think the city should be guaranteeing hours and questions if a city the size of Dearborn (Dearborn has 355 registered voters) can offer that kind of workload.
McAuley did not return phone calls for this article.
In her letter, McAuley did not mention Alderman Bill Edwards’ petition effort to force a state audit or her decision to conduct a recent phone vote regarding city business without public notice. According to attorneys, the secret vote violated Missouri’s Sunshine Law.
“(A phone vote) is not illegal, but there has to be notice,” said Jean Maneke, attorney for the Missouri Press Association and a noted expert on the state’s open meetings and records laws. “If there was no notice, then there was an illegal vote.”
In last week’s Landmark, Dearborn City Clerk Susan Crowley admitted there was no advance public notice of the phone vote.
According to Maneke, somebody would need to sue the city government before any action could take place. Possible penalties could include a fine plus assessed attorney fees.
Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said that if the alleged violation occurred and there was a subsequent police investigation into the matter, then his office would consider bringing a case against the city’s government.
Dearborn’s often-complicated political landscape is accustomed to the practice of public officials resigning from their posts. McAuley herself was appointed to the Dearborn Board of Aldermen in October 2002, following the resignation of Frank Downing Jr. Downing had defeated McAuley in that year’s election.
McAuley was appointed mayor after Mayor Marvin Landes resigned the post in August 2003, citing frustration with the work contracts of the Davidsons and Dovel. Swanstone served as mayor pro-tem after Landes’ resignation before McAuley was appointed to the position by the board in September 2003.
McAuley said then that she wanted to restore “peace to Dearborn,” believing that the rash of resignations was casting the town in a bad light. A major advocate for the city’s new park, McAuley was described as being the driving force behind the city’s acquisition of 13-acres of parkland and was credited with being the lead negotiator in the deal by Platte County Parks and Recreation Director Brian Nowotny.
She won the mayoral job in the April 2004 election. McAuley had previously served as alderman from 1997 to 2001.