Citizen starts petition urging Sunset Hills board to ask Furrer to resign

‘It’s just a black eye for the city,’ acting board president says

Mayor Mark Furrer, left, being sworn into office in April after a write-in victory.

Mayor Mark Furrer, left, being sworn into office in April after a write-in victory.

By Gloria Lloyd

A Sunset Hills resident has started a Change.org petition urging the Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen to ask Mayor Mark Furrer to resign after he was charged with two felonies Wednesday.

Resident Mike Hogan started the petition Thursday afternoon, and it was up to 50 signatures Friday morning. Former Sigma Aldrich Chief Financial Officer Hogan served on the city’s Finance Committee but resigned in April when Furrer took office in a write-in victory over former Mayor Bill Nolan.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch’s office charged Furrer Wednesday with felony second-degree assault and felony property damage for allegedly knocking Fenton bicyclist Randy Murdick off Old Gravois Road in Sunset Hills July 29. Furrer’s first court date on the charges is set for Oct. 30, and his attorney Thomas Magee issued a statement that said Furrer will take the case to trial and win. Furrer did not respond to the Call’s request for comment on the charges.

“Am I the only Sunset Hills resident who thinks it is inappropriate, embarrassing and even potentially dangerous to have a sitting Mayor under two felony indictments? I doubt it,” Hogan wrote on the petition. “I hope our elected officials will exercise their rights by impeaching this guy, allowing us to have a functional government, avoiding an absentee mayor (isn’t he already, having avoided every important city meeting in the past month) distracted by mounting his legal defenses and getting our city out of all the adverse publicity that’s making us a laughing stock around town. We have serious business to conduct. Added to his provable lies regarding the police chief and the potential outsourcing of our police department — and generally boorish public manner in many settings — these indictments and his history of repeated road rage incidents outlined in police reports made public last month should be the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Hogan is a former corporate vice president and controller at Monsanto and a former chief administrative officer and chief financial officer at Sigma Aldrich who over the past month has been critical of steps taken by Furrer and City Attorney Robert E. Jones to reclassify the business license of New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. so that New Balance would only pay taxes on the square footage of its Sunset Hills office rather than gross receipts from sales, without consulting with the Board of Aldermen or the Finance Committee about the change.

Several of the petition signers left comments in support of the petition, including Nolan, who wrote, “Not right for the job.”

Former Ward 4 Alderman Art Havener, who like Nolan was defeated by a write-in candidate in April, wrote, “City reputation is in jeopardy.”

Acting Board of Aldermen President Scott Haggerty, who would become acting mayor until a special election if Furrer resigned, told the Call that aldermen are working on a plan for how to respond to the charges against Furrer.

In the meantime, however, the mayor should step down for the sake of his fellow residents, elected officials and city, he added.

“It’s just a black eye for the city,” Haggerty told the Call. “And the city had nothing to do with it — he just happened to be the mayor.”

Haggerty said he met Thursday with some of the aldermen and will talk with others by phone this weekend to reach a consensus on what option to take if Furrer does not choose to resign — which could include an extended leave of absence or impeachment.

“Certainly we’re not going to sit back and do nothing,” Ward 1 Alderman Dee Baebler said.

Aldermen have been in a holding pattern for two months waiting to see what the county would do with Furrer’s case, Baebler said, and now that charges have been filed she hopes that the city can move forward in a more positive direction — which would involve Furrer resigning, she added.

Although Jones told the Call that Sunset Hills ordinances do not prevent a felon from holding office, convicted felons cannot hold office by Missouri statute.

“I’m sure it’s a very difficult time for his family and certainly for Sunset Hills, and I hope he decides to do the right thing and step down. We don’t want this to be what Sunset Hills is known for,” Baebler said. “I’ve had so many residents express just embarrassment and disappointment, and I can’t keep my email and my voicemails empty. People are very upset, and this is not what we want to focus on. We want to keep making improvements to the city and make positive changes and have Sunset Hills be known for the lovely, wonderful, neighborhood-type city that it is. We’ve got to get back to that.”

Although aldermen were waiting to see what county police found in their investigation of the incident, residents are wondering why city officials have not taken action before now, Haggerty noted.

“I’m floored at the number of people who have called, and they’re asking us why we haven’t (impeached Furrer) before now. The people don’t like it,” he said. “I would probably say, without doing an official count, probably 70 percent of the calls that I’ve gotten are people saying, ‘You guys should impeach him now, even though I voted for him.’ The people that voted him in are now wanting him out.”

If Furrer does not resign, “I don’t know how effective he’ll be in his position,” Haggerty said.