Resident says she doubts committee will take action
The Parkville resident who last week filed a complaint with the city’s ethics commission, says she doubts members will recommend, as she requested, that Mayor Nan Johnston be removed from office.
But Elaine Kellerman said she believed it was time to ask for Johnston’s removal, especially given recent news of an investigation into alleged illegal activity among city officials and a second ruling that the mayor committed campaign finance violations.
However, if the Parkville Ethics Commission members would recommend the mayor’s removal, Kellerman said it’s possible the board of aldermen could vote to remove her from office.
“If it gets that far (if the commission recommends her removal), they might,” she said in a text message, adding that she’s “not sure if that would give them (the board) the incentive to act or not.”
Kellerman said a lack of activity made her complaint necessary.
“It became clear that the board of aldermen was going to take no action on this ruling, despite this marking the second time in less than two years that the MEC (Missouri Ethics Commission) has found her guilty of ethics violations,” Kellerman said in an emailed statement.
“Add to this her DUI (driving under the influence) of a year ago and other serious matters of conduct outlined in the complaint,” Kellerman wrote. “It was time someone acted to officially hold her accountable and formally demand that she step down as mayor of Parkville,” she stated.
Kellerman added that she’s had no communication with ethics commissioners since filing the complaint this past Tuesday.
The city charter states that the city attorney, treasurer or other “appropriate public official” may assist (ethics commissioners) in an investigation and that penalties may be imposed by municipal court or Platte County Circuit Court.
Kellerman said her doubts about commissioners recommending removal also stem from the fact that Johnston appointed members of the ethics commission and that one member contributed to Johnston’s mayoral campaign while another was paid for campaigning on her behalf.
“Since all were appointed by the mayor, I do not believe they can rule objectively,” she said.
Kellerman said she could not find commissioners named on the city’s website but learned the names after asking the city clerk. Ethics committee members are lead commissioner Bryan Dehner, Deborah Butcher, Gil Scott, Jerry Felker and Peggy Parolin, Kellerman said.
The commission acts as an advisory board and is charged with investigating complaints before making a recommendation to the board of aldermen, who then will decide whether to act.
Butcher donated $400 to the mayor’s last campaign for re-election while Parolin received more than $2,500 for services as a campaign worker, Kellerman said, which Johnston reported on state campaign finance documents.
Kellerman’s complaint also states that “some members must recuse themselves from considering the complaint” based on conflicts of interest.
The eight-page formal complaint, delivered to the city clerk Melissa McChesney last week, listed numerous “code of conduct violations” as outlined in the city’s charter. The complaint includes alleged criminal activity involving the destruction of public records during a civil lawsuit in which the judge issued a $195,000 settlement to area resident Jason Maki for unfulfilled records requests.
Kellerman’s complaint also detailed how Johnston failed to uphold herself in a manner above reproach” by repeatedly flaunting The Missouri Constitution “by accepting and concealing illegal corporate (campaign) contributions for which she was fined by the Missouri Ethics Commission,” a state agency charged with policing such matters.
In addition, the complaint lists four cases in which Johnston used her public office to coerce private market participants and censor the media. These include conspiring to persuade a business owner to “yank the lease” from a tenant in favor of a tenant with whom Johnston has a personal relationship. The letter also details Johnston’s attempts to influence the board of aldermen and planning and zoning commission by creating a façade of support and other attempts to influence Parkville business owners to restrict access to a local media publication and to adversely affect its income.
Parkville resident and business owner Tom Hutsler said he agrees that the local ethics commission will likely not recommend the mayor’s removal because of a culture of “taking care of themselves” and protecting those with similar political views.
But Hutsler said he agrees that Johnston’s actions warrant such a recommendation.
“We need leadership that will retain public records, not destroy them,” Hutsler said of the criminal investigation into destruction of public documents, potential evidence that had been subpoenaed in the civil suit that was going through the courts at the time of the alleged destruction.
Since the board, city administrator and mayor face potential individual criminal charges, Hutsler said taxpayers are paying for their legal defense.