Crestwood mayor, board should fire city attorney

By MIKE ANTHONY

If Crestwood Mayor Roy Robinson and the Board of Aldermen do not fire City Attorney Rob Golterman, we can only conclude they share his contempt for open government and the law.

Mr. Golterman apparently doesn’t have much use for the state’s Open Meetings and Records Law, also called the Sunshine Law, nor the city’s own rules and regulations he is paid to see are enforced. But that’s not really a surprise as Mr. Golterman has been an opponent of open and transparent government since he was named city attorney in December 2000.

He certainly wasn’t an enthusiastic proponent of the city’s policy of taping closed sessions of the Board of Aldermen involving litigation and real-estate matters. No problems or legal challenges ever have resulted from that policy, which was adopted in March 2002.

As this newspaper documented last year, Mr. Golterman twice was on the opposite side of open government — first regarding providing meeting notices to media requesting such notification and later defending a consensus vote in a closed session.

In both instances last year, Missouri Press Association attorney Jean Maneke contended the city violated the Sunshine Law. Not surprisingly, Mr. Golterman disputed those assertions.

And Mr. Golterman continues to thumb his nose at both the Sunshine Law and the City Code. Police Chief Michael Paillou told the Call’s Burke Wasson that a restructuring proposal for his department was discussed during a May 13 closed session of the Board of Aldermen. Oddly enough, no votes were taken, but Chief Paillou said aldermen seemed to be pleased with the proposal.

We believe the board should have discussed the restructuring in open session — as it did when former City Administrator Don Greer proposed a massive restructuring of all city departments in June 2005.

But even more egregious is Mr. Golterman’s conduct following Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel’s public revelation during the July 8 aldermanic meeting that 15 police officers were awarded pay increases this year without Board of Aldermen approval.

While five officers were promoted and received pay increases in June, 10 other officers received salary hikes without being promoted in May.

Mr. Golterman’s solution? Have the board vote to approve those raises in a closed session immediately following the July 8 open session.

But Section 20-2 (d) of the City Code states that “compensation of the chief of police and of all other members of the police force shall be provided for by ordinance or resolution.”

Such measures can only be approved by the board in public.

When Mr. Wasson asked last week how these pay raises could be awarded without ordinance or resolution as required by the City Code, Mr. Golterman replied, “I’m not going to comment on personnel matters.”

He also said the board was permitted to meet in closed session July 8 to vote on the previously awarded pay raises “because it’s a personnel matter.”

But when asked which section of law would allow this decision to be made in closed session, Golterman said, “I don’t have any comment.”

The Missouri Press Association attorney told Mr. Wasson last week that while the board legally can meet in closed session to discuss the five promotions, the 10 pay increases without promotions must be done in open session according to the Sunshine Law.

“He (Golterman) needs to read the rule,” she said. “The rule is pretty specific that it’s only hiring, firing, disciplining and promoting that is subject to closed session.”

Given Mr. Golterman’s attitude toward the Sunshine Law and the City Code, we can only wonder if he is unaware of the provisions they contain or if he just doesn’t care.

Frankly, we’re not sure which is worse, but believe it’s time for Mayor Robinson and the Board of Aldermen to take action.

The last thing a city seeking a tax increase should do is give raises — even if they are justified — behind closed doors.

But being that Mr. Golterman prefers to spend public money in private, we urge Mayor Robinson and the Board of Aldermen to show him the door and restore transparency in Crestwood’s government.