Maki: Nan Johnston is ‘deeply troubled and needs help’
The Parkville resident who kick-started the ethics complaint process against Parkville mayor this week said the board of aldermen “did what they needed to do” in issuing a letter of reprimand to the mayor.
The Parkville Board of Aldermen voted during a special meeting last week to affirm a recommendation from the city’s ethics commission that Mayor Nan Johnston violated the city code of ethics in eight instances and should be the recipient of a “strongly written” letter of reprimand.
The recommendation came after the ethics commission had investigated a detailed ethics complaint filed by resident Elaine Kellerman. Ethics violations included things such as campaign finance violations, using her public office to attempt to censor the media and cease relationships with The Landmark, driving under the influence (DUI), for which she was charged and convicted, and calling requests for public records “harassment.”
City Clerk Melissa McChesney read aloud the letter of reprimand at last week’s special meeting. McChesney did not respond by this week’s deadline to a Sunshine request from The Landmark asking for a copy of the letter. Therefore, the letter’s contents were transcribed based on McChesney’s reading of the letter at the meeting.
“Public officials should all strive to conduct ourselves in a manner that’s above reproach no matter the circumstances,” the letter stated. The letter recognized that the goal creates a very high bar and that we should “not forget that we are all human beings with our own human emotions and feelings.” It continued: “It is unfortunate that the commission found you failed to meet the goal of conduct and that your failure was deemed to be a violation of the city’s ethics code.”
The letter added that Johnston has acknowledged her shortcomings and is remorseful. However, the letter stated that “this board and the citizens of Parkville expect its elected officials to do their best to exemplify conduct that is above reproach” and advised Johnston should do the same during the remainder of her term in office “as you have in most circumstances.”
Kellerman, who submitted the original letter of complaint that launched the investigation by the city’s ethics commission, said she had hoped aldermen would agree with the commission’s recommendation but “was not sure what to expect.” She added she believes the aldermen “did what they needed to do” and said she was somewhat surprised that more did not vote with Alderman Bob Lock, who was the only alderman to vote against the letter of reprimand.
Kellerman acknowledged it must have been difficult for Johnston’s colleagues on the board, many of whom also are her friends, to take the action.
“I was very impressed the aldermen sent a message that the ethics violations are serious and must be addressed so hopefully these kinds of actions don’t repeat themselves,” Kellerman said.
However, Kellerman, who spoke during a telephone interview, said she was disappointed that ethics commissioners did not recommend that Johnston be removed from office due to her violations, as Kellerman asked for in her initial letter of complaint, which she felt compelled to write because she did not feel it would be right to “stand by and say nothing” when witnessing such violations.
Brett Krause, who has been critical of Johnston and the board and spoke at last week’s special meeting, said he hopes citizens will remember the mayor’s missteps and the way the board has often ignored her behavior. “There are people watching out there, people that care,” Krause said during a telephone interview.
During the meeting last week, Johnston alleged that Kellerman and other critics of the mayor communicate “via a disappearing text messaging app.” Johnston also incorrectly claimed that Kellerman and other critics of Johnston communicate with the editor of The Landmark using a disappearing text messaging app.
Kellerman said she has no idea why Johnston made the claim that Kellerman and others use a text message disappearing app to communicate.
“Anybody that knows me knows I’m not technically gifted,” she said, and suggested Johnston will benefit from “some time away from the spotlight to think about things.”
Jason Maki, who reached an out-of-court settlement in a civil lawsuit alleging public records violations by city officials, said Johnston’s comments and behavior during the public hearing were “not unexpected” and were “a sad display of Johnston’s arrogance and her expectation of special treatment.”
Maki also expressed concerns regarding Johnston’s “outlandish statements” regarding Kellerman and that they “showed the mayor’s warped thought processes and self-deluding fiction that one would expect of a pathological liar.”
“Why would Elaine Kellerman use such an app (as claimed by the mayor)?” Maki asked. “She’s not in the Central Intelligence Agency, she’s not a clandestine agent.”
“To what benefit or end-game would this type application be used by Kellerman–or anyone–in the public?” Maki continued. “It is simply an outrageous comment. The woman (Johnston) is deeply troubled and needs help.”
Although Johnston told the board she has been a victim of attacks by a small group of Parkville area residents, Maki said he sees it differently.
“Nan is a victim of her own conduct and decision making,” Maki said. “If she had behaved in a manner that was ethical and correct, she wouldn’t have these problems.”
Johnston has not replied to a Landmark request for her reaction to the aldermen’s decision to issue the letter of reprimand.
The eight ethics violations committed by Johnston include:
Concealing and accepting illegal campaign contributions in her recent bids for mayoral reelection (the Missouri Ethics Commission also found Johnston in violation and, as a result, issued fines)
Using her public office to attempt to coerce private market participants to censor the media, specifically, attempting to coerce Park University officials to stop advertising in and sending news releases to The Landmark Newspaper, which had published articles critical of the mayor and the current administration.
Calling records requests submitted under the state’s Sunshine Law “harassment.” In response, the board of aldermen released a statement stating they did not consider such records requests “harassment.” In addition, this is a condition agreed to in the civil lawsuit with Maki.
Attempting to convince members of a local Rotary Club to cease relationship with The Landmark Newspaper.
Attempting to convince city employees to stop sending press releases and legal notices to The Landmark.
Driving under the influence, for which the mayor was charged and convicted.
Instructing city employees to keep it confidential that she was attempting to have a landlord “yank the lease” of what she viewed as an undesirable Parkville business.
Threatening Parkville resident Weston Coble, who was critical of her, with investigation by a state regulatory agency.