Crestwood mayor, some aldermen allege bias in panel’s pursuit of investigations

‘Show me the evidence,’ Alderman Nieder insists to mayor

By BURKE WASSON

Crestwood Mayor Roy Robinson and some aldermen believe the Civil Service Board’s efforts to pursue two investigations are politically motivated and biased.

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.

But Robinson contended at last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting that the Civil Service Board has lost its independent nature and claimed that Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel and Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder have worked with the Civil Service Board to initiate the investigations.

City Administrator Jim Eckrich recently informed the Civil Service Board that he does not believe it has the authority in the City Charter or municipal code to initiate personnel investigations.

The Civil Service Board voted Aug. 28 to conduct a private investigation of the legitimacy of 10 Police Department pay raises that went into effect May 15 before the Board of Aldermen approved them during a July 8 closed session.

Miguel first publicly revealed these raises during a July 8 Board of Aldermen meeting.

The Civil Service Board also voted Aug. 28 to investigate whether the use of the city’s newsletter and reverse-911 system to promote July town-hall meetings led by the campaign committee Crestwood Residents for Prop 1 violated the city’s civil-service code.

In addition, four residents, including Nieder, filed a query with the Missouri Ethics Commission to determine whether city officials and/or Crestwood Residents for Prop 1 acted improperly to inform voters.

The residents recently were informed that the Ethics Commission plans to conduct an investigation.

Instead of the Civil Service Board investigating, Robinson said he would prefer to wait until the Ethics Commission has rendered its decision.

As for investigating the police pay raises, the mayor said he would rather find an independent investigator or perhaps use the county Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

“I’m having great concerns about an independent board, which I appoint, having aldermen who are political interjecting their ideas and their opinions into the (Civil Service) Board to make decisions,” Robinson said.

“I think it taints the board. I would never allow … their involvement and their actual coming to a board and requesting that they be allowed to investigate what they have already pretty much decided is going on.”

Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland agreed and believes that any Civil Service Board investigation would be perceived as biased.

“I have some real concerns that an investigation conducted by the Civil Service Board could be impartial and objective,” Bland said. “And quite frankly, an investigation that is not impartial nor objective is worthless. My concern is comments that have been made by a Civil Service Board member (Martha Duchild) on Aug. 12 indicate that there have been opinions that have already been formed about these issues.

“With that in mind, I don’t see how the Civil Service Board can objectively run any type of inquiry or investigation and present any results. Even if the results were spot on, there’s always going to be a perception that there was an underlying motive.”

Board President Chris Pickel of Ward 2 said last week that the city should “move on” from these investigative issues and focus more on Crestwood as a whole.

A heated argument ensued between Robinson and Nieder last week after Robinson stated that Miguel and Nieder had “diverted” the Civil Service Board.

“I think we’ve got good people,” Robinson said. “I just think they’ve been diverted from their real function into things that they have no responsibility for. And I think partially it’s because of Alderman Miguel and Alderman Nieder.”

“Say what?” Nieder said.

“I think both of you influenced the Civil Service Board into doing what they’ve done,” Robinson said.

“I’m sorry, but you’re dead wrong,” Nieder said. “If you’re going to make those accusations, you may want to have some evidence. Where’s the evidence then?

“Show it to me. Show it to me. I don’t want to hear any mouth or anything like that. I want evidence,” he added.

“Alderman Miguel was attending the (Civil Service Board) meetings,” Robinson said.

“I never attended the meetings,” Nieder said.

“No, but you’d end up in the parking lot waiting on them,” Robinson said.

“No, I haven’t either,” Nieder said.

“Yes, you have,” Robinson said.

“No, I have not,” Nieder said.

“Well, we’re not going to argue about it,” Robinson said.

“Well, you just accused me of something,” Nieder said. “You accused me of something.”

“Well, you’re the ones putting the information forward here at this meeting,” Robinson said. “You’re pushing the investigation to the Civil Service Board.”

“I’m not pushing the investigation whatsoever, sir …,” Nieder said. “I asked for it. The motion was declined (by the Board of Aldermen).”

“Well, you also signed the other thing (Ethics Commission complaint),” Robinson said.

“The motion was declined, sir,” Nieder said. “And I did not push it through the Civil Service Board. This is prompted on their own. They have the authority to do that.”

“Well, you think they have the authority to do that,” Robinson said. “They do not have the authority to do that.”

“I can’t ask for that,” Nieder said. “I am forbidden, and so is the rest of this board, from asking for anything like that sort, all right? So I can’t interfere with the employees. Period. And neither can you.”

“Neither do I,” Robinson said.

“That’s correct,” Nieder said. “So don’t stand there and accuse me of something.”

“I’m not standing,” Robinson said. “I’m sitting here.”

“All right, don’t sit there and accuse me of something I have not done,” Nieder said.

“Well, it’s very evident that you and Alderman Miguel have been active in participating in this,” Robinson said. “And I’m very much aware of it.”

“Well, I haven’t seen the evidence yet,” Nieder said.

“Well, I don’t need to show you the evidence,” Robinson said. “I think the evidence speaks for itself.”

“You just made that accusation,” Nieder said. “Show me the evidence.”

“Well, you’ve got it,” Robinson said. “I told you.”

“Where’s the evidence?” Nieder asked. “You can tell me all you want. But show me the evidence.”