Crestwood attorney nixes probes by panel; city administrator lays out options for aldermen

Eckrich disputes assertions made by Civil Service Board chair

By BURKE WASSON

Now that Crestwood City Attorney Rob Golterman has determined the city’s Civil Service Board cannot conduct two investigations, City Administrator Jim Eckrich has laid out several choices for aldermen to address those matters.

The Civil Service Board recently voted to investigate 10 Police Department pay raises and the use of city resources to promote a now-failed tax-rate increase.

Eckrich was set to present his six options to aldermen Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

The options revolve around the two requested investigations approved Aug. 28 by the Civil Service Board.

One investigation was the legitimacy of 10 Police Department pay raises in a restructuring that included five promotions.

While the restructuring resulted in a $77,000 savings due to one retirement and two resignations, some have questioned why the pay raises were awarded May 15 — nearly two months before aldermen approved them in a closed session on July 8 after Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel made the restructuring public. Aldermen first heard the restructuring proposal during a May 13 closed session.

Additionally, the Civil Service Board voted Aug. 28 to investigate whether any city laws or civil-service rules were broken as a result of city resources being used to advertise July town-hall meetings to inform residents of the now-failed tax-rate increase Proposition 1. Those meetings were led by Crestwood Residents for Prop 1.

While the Missouri Ethics Commission has agreed to a request from four residents to investigate whether the city or campaign committee violated any state laws, Eckrich wants aldermen to decide if the city also should investigate that matter along with the police pay raises.

In a memo to aldermen in this week’s Board of Aldermen meeting packet, Eckrich said they may choose more than one of the six proposals.

Those possible courses of action are:

“1) Instruct the city administration, by a motion and majority vote, to present the Police Department restructuring to the mayor and Board of Aldermen in open session. Then, if so inclined, the mayor and Board of Aldermen could vote to confirm the previous actions taken or vote to take an alternate course of action.

“2) Vote — by motion and majority — to close this matter and instruct the city administrator to move forward with the day-to-day business of this city. Should you take this course of action, I will cease responding to any inquiries regarding these matters which are not required by law.

“3) Consider a revision to the Crestwood Municipal Code and/or the Civil Service Board Rules and Regulations regarding the powers and duties of the Civil Service Board.

“4) Instruct the city administrator, by a motion and majority vote, to meet with the Civil Service Board or any member(s) of the Civil Service Board in an attempt to resolve this issue.

“5) Instruct the city administrator, by a motion and majority vote, to provide the mayor and Board of Aldermen a written description of those actions which occurred prior to July 14, 2008, regarding the above-referenced salary adjustments and the use of reverse 911 and the city newsletters related to the failed Proposition 1.

“6) Table these matters until the results of the Missouri Ethics Commission review are completed and provided to the city.”

Along with these options comes Golterman’s opinion that the Civil Service Board’s investigative powers are confined to those approved by aldermen in April 2007 as an amendment of Section 18-7 of the municipal code. Issues of whether language approved later that evening in Crestwood’s civil-service code matched that municipal-code ordinance prompted Golterman to further review.

Aldermen amended Section 18-7(2), which states the Civil Service Board can only investigate “appropriate changes or additions to the Civil Service Rules for classified employees or procedures or general policies that unfairly or adversely af-fect classified employees,” according to approved minutes of the Board of Aldermen’s April 10, 2007, meeting.

However, a copy of the civil-service rules included in the board packet for the April 10, 2007, meeting states the Civil Service Board’s investigative powers are more broad. The Civil Service Board shall have the power and be required to “make any investigation which it may deem desirable concerning the administration of personnel in the municipal service …,” according to Chapter 1, Section 8(B) of that document.

But in a memo in the Board of Aldermen’s packet this week, Golterman opined the municipal-code amendment that outlines narrow investigative powers takes precedent over the civil-service code section that allows more broad investigative powers.

Golterman’s memo, in part, states: “… When the Board of Aldermen considered Bill No. 06-79, which adopts the new CSR (civil-service rules), later in the evening on April 10, 2007, there would have been no reason to further discuss the powers of the CSB (Civil Service Board) (contained in the new Chapter 1 Section 8 of the CSR) given the fact that the board had already established the powers by adopting the changes to Section 18-7 of the code … It is presumed that the board did not intend to enact inconsistent provisions … Regardless of what draft of the CSR was distributed prior to the meeting on April 10, 2007, the version of the CSR attached as Exhibit A to Ordinance 4054 as maintained in the official records of the city mirrors the amended Section 18-7 of the Code … The new CSR distributed to all employees in early May 2007 is the same version as Exhibit A to Ordinance 4054 and contains the same ‘powers’ language as that set forth in the amended Section 18-7 …”

Eckrich’s memo also disputes a recent letter from Civil Service Board Chairwoman Martha Duchild regarding his decision to deny the investigations. He also noted that because the actions that would be investigated occurred before he was promoted July 14 to city administrator, he is not responsible for them.

“… In no way am I selectively enforcing laws,” Eckrich writes. “… It is not my responsibility to see that they are retroactively enforced. (Duchild’s) letter asserts that the employees will have little confidence in me if I do not allow this investigation. It is my opinion that the employees will have little confidence in me if I permit an investigation which the Civil Service Board is not authorized to perform. (Duchild) asks what kind of message I am sending to city staff. I am attempting to send a message that I will support employees under pressure. I also assure you that I will hold them accountable for wrongdoings done under my term as city administrator. In absolutely no way do I believe my actions are inconsistent or self-serving. I believe I am doing what I am required to do as the city administrator.”