Citizen alleges Roby removed him from panel illegally

Nieder seeks reappointment to Crestwood planning panel

Steve Nieder

Steve Nieder

By Mike Anthony

A former Crestwood alderman alleges that he was removed illegally from the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission by Mayor Gregg Roby.

During a period for public comment at a recent Board of Aldermen meeting, former Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder told Roby that because Planning and Zoning Commission members serve four-year terms, Roby’s decision to remove him from the panel was illegal.

Nieder, who served as an alderman from 2006 to 2009, was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission in September 2011 by former Mayor Jeff Schlink.

Aldermen voted 4-3 to approve Schlink’s appointment of Nieder to the panel, with Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach, Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild, then-Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel and then-Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel in favor.

Opposed were then-Ward 1 Alderman Mimi Duncan and then-Ward 4 Aldermen Deborah Beezley and John Foote.

At the Sept. 23 Board of Aldermen meeting, Nieder said, “… I approach you tonight to present a problem and a solution. Several months ago, Mr. Roby, you terminated my four-year term of membership on the Planning and Zoning Commission that started in September of 2011. If you recall, I objected to the method you employed. I do not want to review the details of the methodology again tonight as that is not why I am here tonight. What I chose not to reveal at the time is your actions were illegal …”

Under city code, the terms of all Planning and Zoning Commission members shall be four years, and members shall serve until a successor is appointed, he said.

“After several consultations with city legal representatives and observing other illegal actions executed by this administration, I have decided to reveal this politically motivated, grievous error. I, effectively immediately, request that you reinstall me as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and for compensation of lost time of (service), extend that term of December of 2015.”

Roby said, “Thank you. I appreciate it. Is there anyone else with any questions? …”

Nieder said, “So I’m assuming you’re going to go ahead and do as I (asked), right?”

Roby said, “This is a public-comment section, sir, and if you’d like a response, I’d be happy to get back to you.”

Nieder said, “… I’m waiting.”

Roby said, “We’re done. It’s public comment.”

After a further exchange between the two, Roby said, “I told you I’m not providing you with an answer. We’ve already been through this once before …”

Nieder said, “No, we haven’t.”

Roby said, “And we are not going to discuss it again.”

Nieder said, “We have not been through this before. You took an illegal action and eliminated me off the board … My term is four years. It has not expired. So effectively, I am a member of that board.”

Roby said, “I’m sorry, sir, you no longer are a member of that board.”

Nieder said, “I’m sorry, but I am.”

The mayor said, “… Would you like to have a seat, please, sir?”

Nieder said, “No, I wouldn’t.”

Roby said, “We’re done. Do I have to ask the police chief to remove you from the …”

Nieder said, “No, you don’t.”

Roby continued, “Chambers, sir?”

Nieder said, “No, you don’t.”

The mayor said, “Well, then I’d ask you please to sit down.”

Nieder said, “I think at this particular point, you’ve got to give me an answer, and the answer is not the one you’re supposed to give because you acted illegally.”

Roby said, “… OK, we can discuss it any time, sir.”

Nieder said, “… We are discussing it right now.”

Roby said, “No, we are not. We’re through. We’re through.”

Nieder said, “No, we’re not.”

Roby said, “Sir, would you like to have a seat? I’ll ask you one more time.”

Nieder then directed his inquiry to City Attorney Lisa Stump, who replied, “… This is a public-comment session and I support the mayor that this is public comment and for anybody currently speaking with the Board of Aldermen right now, he’s asking, you know, he’s asking you to sit down. If you all want to have a conversation, if you want me to look into the legality of it, you can — the board can direct me to do so.

“And that’s fine, but I agree with the mayor that this isn’t the appropriate time right now for him to give you an answer, and he’s not legally obligated to right now. This is public-comment session.”

Nieder said, “Well, he acted illegally in removing me from my term.”

Stump said, “This is public-comment session.”

Nieder said, “No, it’s not. I made a comment about — I told you that you acted illegally in removing me from the board.”

Stump said, “And if the Board of Aldermen wants me to look into that, I will do so, but I’m not going to give an answer right now, and the mayor’s not required — this is a public-comment session … You are entitled as a citizen certainly to come up and make public comments, but the mayor’s not obligated to legally respond right now.”

Nieder later ended the exchange, saying, “Well, I’ll see you at the next Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.”

Nieder first raised the issue of his removal from the commission at the June 10 board meeting, after receiving a letter from Roby that thanked him for his service on the planning panel and asked him to serve on the Board of Adjustment instead.

Given his nearly 100-percent attendance at commission meetings, Nieder said he was disappointed by his dismissal.

Roby told the Call that after becoming mayor, he reviewed the membership of the city’s boards and commissions and saw “that there were a lot of positions that had people whose terms had expired as far back as 2007 … There were, I want to say, 30-something of them between all of our boards …”

As a result, the mayor said, “I sent this form letter out, asking everyone to please update their information with a new survey and in that letter it stated if you want to change from the board you’re currently on to another one, please let me know, and I will attempt to accommodate that. If you’re no longer interested in serving, please let me know, and if I don’t hear anything back from you, I will assume you’re not interested in serving any longer and we will replace you.”

After he did not receive a response from Nieder, Roby said he called Nieder’s house twice and left messages, but the calls were not returned.

Nieder told the Call that he did not receive the form letter or the phone calls.

“So then by that time, I had to fill the spot on P and Z, and I did so …,” Roby told the Call, adding that he’s willing to talk to Stump about the issue, “because if I’m wrong, I’ll make it right. But at this point in time, I can’t just jump because the man comes before the board and demands that I take action.”