Call the Tune: Gov. Nixon still lacking in credibility department

By Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

A recent editorial in a daily newspaper discussed how Gov. Jay Nixon’s “credibility sinks in the Lake of the Ozarks.”

While we don’t necessarily disagree with the editorial’s conclusions about Nixon and “Lakegate,” we question the assumption that Nixon had credibility to lose. To us, Nixon has the same amount of credibility that he had when he was Missouri’s attorney general — not much.

On a few occasions during his long tenure as attorney general, Nixon was contacted and asked to intervene in issues involving south county. But he always declined to do so, typically offering some lame excuse.

Perhaps Nixon’s most egregious instance of refusing to intervene in a south county matter came in the late 1990s when Green Park’s six-member Board of Aldermen was considering an ordinance to grant up to $4.5 million in tax-increment financing to Home Depot, and three aldermen voted in favor of the ordinance and three aldermen abstained.

To adopt the ordinance, then-Mayor Larry Kuban changed the three abstentions to “no” votes to create a 3-3 board tie. To approve an ordinance in a fourth-class city such as Green Park, a majority of the members of the Board of Aldermen must vote in favor of it and mayors of fourth-class cities can vote only in the event of a tie.

After declaring the abstentions as “no” votes, Kuban cast the deciding vote in favor of the ordinance.

Many, including this newspaper, didn’t believe Kuban’s decision was lawful. The state’s top law enforcement official — Nixon — was contacted and asked to intervene.

He didn’t, of course. His spokes-man, Scott Holste, said Nixon viewed the issue as “a local matter” and would not intervene. Local matter?

Yeah, one with statewide ramifications that was the topic of a 1981 attorney general’s opinion stating an alderman of a fourth-class city who abstains from voting “does not have his abstention counted as vote.”

And after a lengthy legal battle, then-St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Romines ruled in September 1999 the Green Park ordinance was not lawfully approved. He wrote: “There was no tie. Abstentions are not votes and cannot be counted as such to satisfy the statutory requirements for enactment of ordinances.”

Nixon could have stood up and intervened before the issue went to court. But he didn’t and that’s why despite “Lakegate,” his credibility already has hit bottom in south county.