In a closed meeting with special county counselor Charlie Dickman on Tuesday morning, the Platte County Commission voted 2-1 against pursuing an appeal in the case against former First District Commissioner Michael Short for failure to return an unconstitutional mid-term pay raise.
Like Short, former Second District Commissioner Diza Eskridge also received $19,763.50 as a part of a mid-term pay raise. The decision in the Short case effectively ended the county’s case against Eskridge, as well.
First District Commissioner Tom Pryor voted to appeal the case. Commissioners Betty Knight and Jim Plunkett voted to drop the issue.
As first reported in The Landmark in late July, Clay County Circuit Court Judge Rex Gabbert, assigned by the Missouri Supreme Court to hear the case after Platte County judges had excused themselves, ruled that the three-year statute of limitations to recover the money had expired and he dismissed the case brought by the county. The decision meant Short would not have to repay approximately $20,000 to the county that he received from an unconstitutional mid-term pay raise between Jan. 1, 1999 and Dec. 31, 2000.
If the commission would have decided to pursue an appeal, the case would have gone before a circuit court judge. Plunkett said a successful appeal would have then sent the case back to Judge Gabbert.
“It would still go back to Judge Gabbert and we would basically be saying he was wrong and the statute of limitations was five years,” Plunkett said.
Depending on that verdict, the commission could have then taken the case to the Missouri Supreme Court.
“I looked at it from a financial standpoint. I simply weighed the risks and the rewards,” said Plunkett.
“I didn’t think as a steward of the taxpayers’ money. . .I just didn’t think it was worth it,” Plunkett added.
However, for Pryor his vote reflected his feelings that Short needed to be held accountable for accepting and keeping the mid-term pay raise.
“I thought it was a good argument for the five year statute of limitations. Overall, I think it’s unfortunate that they (Short and Eskridge) hide behind the statute of limitations and I would still ask that they pay the money back,” stated Pryor.
While the commissioners each took different views on the pursuant of an appeal, both apologized to the county residents for failing to get their tax dollars returned to the county. “I’m sorry that the statute of limitations ruled the other way and it’s unfortunate for the taxpayers,” said Plunkett.
“We tried our best to get the money that’s rightfully due to the county and it’s unfortunate that they hide behind the statute of limitations. However, that’s what elections are for, also,” said Pryor. “So when citizens don’t agree with what or how elected officials are doing, they have an opportunity to vote in a new public official.”