ust days after the city’s mayor announced he had hired a public relations firm, the City of Parkville is finding itself making headlines for all the wrong reasons across the region–even across the state.
In the past week, an alderman who had been hounded with questions about his residency resigned, an accounts payable clerk has also resigned, and the city administrator has served three days of paid administrative leave.
None of the three are talking to the media, at least not yet.
Meanwhile, an investigative news crew from KSHB-TV Channel 41 in Kansas City announced it has been–and is still–conducting an investigation into paperwork and expense reimbursements at City Hall.
Alderman Jeffrey Bay submitted a one-sentence letter of resignation to Mayor Gerry Richardson on Monday. In articles and editorials printed months ago, The Landmark had raised questions about Bay’s residency status. He had sold his home in The National last year. Sources had told The Landmark Bay was primarily living in an apartment complex he owns in Gladstone, which would make him ineligible to hold the city’s elected alderman position . Bay had declined to return phone calls to answer the newspaper’s questions about his residency. Recently, KSHB investigative reporter Russ Ptacek had done some probing into Bay’s residency situation as well. KSHB reported that records in the Platte County Recorder of Deeds office show Bay listed a Gladstone residence as his mailing address when he filed official documents regarding a real estate transaction.
Richardson told The Landmark on Monday that Bay did not give a reason for his resignation. Though Bay listed April 30 as the effective date, he did not show up at a regular meeting of the alderman Tuesday night (see related story).
Bay is Gov. Jay Nixon’s hand-picked appointee to lead the Missouri Housing Development Commission. The Missouri GOP has pounced on Bay’s situation, and has made a public call via its web site for Bay to resign as chairman of the MHDC and is urging him to pay back the salary he received while allegedly improperly serving as a Parkville alderman.
“Nixon’s old buddy, Jeffrey Bay, has been unmasked as deceitful and dishonest, and he certainly cannot be trusted to lead a scandal-riddled agency such as the MHDC,” said Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party.
“Sadly, Jay Nixon has a history of protecting his closest friends. Since Nixon will likely refuse to rectify this situation, the Missouri Republican party calls upon Jeffrey Bay to immediately resign as chairman of the MHDC and pay back every penny of salary he received while improperly serving as a Parkville alderman,” Smith said.
The GOP described Bay as “the latest in a long line of Nixon cronies who have found themselves in trouble over the past two years.”
***** MEYER OUT, THOMPSON SERVES A PAID LEAVE
Lore Meyer served as the accounts payable clerk in charge of maintaining city reimbursement records for the city of Parkville. She has resigned her position in recent days as the KSHB probe uncovered reimbursement of questionable expenditures submitted by city administrator Shannon Thompson.
Thompson was placed on paid administrative leave as the information uncovered in his investigation was being discussed by reporter Russ Ptacek of KSHB with Mayor Richardson.
Meyer’s attorney told KSHB that “Lore Meyer has resigned from her position and settled claims against the city of Parkville and is unable to comment due to the agreement between the city and Lore Meyer.”
That comment suggests Meyer had made complaints against the city prior to her resignation.
KSHB says its Action News investigators are reviewing hundreds of expenses incurred by and reimbursed to the city administrator.
“During our review, we asked for documents controlled by Meyer, but Parkville officials said the receipts were locked in her office, she was unavailable, and they did not know her status” KSHB reported on its web site.
Thompson, after serving her three days of paid leave last week, was on hand for Tuesday night’s alderman meeting. As soon as the meeting adjourned, Thompson bolted from her chair and headed to a back conference room, an obvious attempt to avoid contact with the media.
Media members from KSHB and The Landmark posted themselves at available exits to City Hall and awaited Thompson. At one point, a police officer cracked open a side exit door, peeked outside, then quickly shut the door. Finally, about 30 minutes after the meeting had adjourned, Thompson emerged from the back conference room. She was closely accompanied by Richardson and Alderman Nan McManus, as well as Police Chief Kevin Chrisman and multiple police officers. While she was walking toward the exit, media members peppered her with questions and asked her for comment. Her only reply was “I will have a statement for you shortly.”
Once outside, Thompson climbed into a car, which was driven away by McManus.
KSHB reported on its web site that many of the receipts it has examined indicate double billing or show only total amounts without itemized purchases or intended business purposes.
“Records indicate Thompson has also charged taxpayers mileage for short trips in the metro, although she already is receiving $450 monthly as a car allowance ($200 more than her predecessor),” KSHB reported.
The station also reported that Richardson said there were questions as to whether non-business meals, unauthorized travel, and/or alcohol purchases had been sent through by the city administrator for reimbursements. He attributed many of the expenses as a “misunderstanding” between Thompson and what city officials expected.
Parkville officials provided NBC Action News a ledger indicating Thompson had paid back the city $858.90 after officials questioned the validity of the expenses. But KSHB says a document review under the Missouri Sunshine Law has not provided evidence that Thompson paid back the entire amount.
KSHB said it identified only one personal check from Thompson to the city in the amount of $658.35, which is more than $200 short of the total identified by the city audit.
Richardson did acknowledge to the station, KSHB’s web site reported, that the city administrator billed $231 for per diem expenses while charging the city under different accounts for meals on the same trip, which created additional concerns.
“We will look at our practice,” Richardson told KSHB. “Our practice is to at least document. It did not follow our practice.”
ETHICS COMPLAINTS BEING FILED Tom Hutsler, a Parkville businessman and former unsuccessful candidate for city office, announced Tuesday he is filing complaints with the Missouri Ethics Commission against Bay and Richardson.
Hutsler provided The Landmark with notarized copies of the complaints he is filing:
“Jeff Bay did knowingly run for take office as an alderman in the City of Parkville, Missouri while not residing in the district in which he was elected to represent. He moved out of the district in late March 2010 before the April 2010 election. He allowed himself to be sworn into office while not residing in the district,” the complaint states.
‘DMV records clearly show he had had a license in Clay, not Platte County. Platte County records substantiate he sold his house before he took office. By vacating his home of record and moving into Section 8 housing (Sun Gate Apartments) he owned in Clay County, he clearly did violate state law,” Hutsler alleges in his complaint.
Hutsler’s complaint against Richardson explains an alleged motive for Richardson to allow Bay to continue to serve as an alderman during the time in question. Hutsler says in his complaint:
“Mayor Gerry Richardson did knowingly allow Alderman Jeff Bay to continue in his office for over one year while Mr. Bay did not reside in the district he was duly elected to. Richardson did allow this to happen so another election cycle could pass and bring about the defeat of another alderman that Mayor Richardson considered a political enemy. Mayor Richardson did enlist and recruit an individual to run against the other incumbent in Mr. Bay’s district.
“By waiting to resign until after the election, Mr. Bay gives Mr. Richardson the ability to appoint his successor. The mayor is ethically, morally and legally responsible to ensure that all aldermen serving under him are qualified not only to take office but to stay in that same office.
“DMV, Platte County Assessor and the County Election Board records all clearly indicate that Bay has not been a resident of Parkville since before he was reelected in April of 2010. It is painstakingly obvious that the mayor should not have overlooked media, constituent and others’ concerns regarding the status of Mr. Bay’s residence,” Hutsler’s complaint states.
Hutsler told The Landmark he is also checking public records to see if it can be determined that Bay inappropriately voted in local elections held after the time his residency changed.