Crestwood’s new planning panel chairman criticizes citizen

Roby defends new chairman in email to board members

Gregg Roby

Gregg Roby

By Mike Anthony

The newly elected chairman of the Crestwood Planning and Zoning Commission was critical of a resident who recently addressed the panel, contending citizen Robert Miller “has never been happy in his life.”

The commission elected attorney Robert Sweeney as chairman during an April 1 meeting. Commission member Steve Nieder, a former Ward 4 alderman, questioned whether Sweeney, who serves as city attorney for three municipalities, has a conflict of interest serving on the commission.

Resident Robert Miller, a frequent speaker at Board of Aldermen meetings, concurred with Nieder’s opinion.

Nieder and Sweeney later clashed after Sweeney gaveled Miller out of order as Miller attempted to speak during a public hearing on a request by Akram Naser, owner of BP Filling Station & Convenience Market at 9666 Watson Road, for a conditional-use permit, or CUP, to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In an April 1 email sent to Mayor Greg Roby and City Administrator Mark Sime, Sweeney wrote, “… We had a bit of an issue at the P&Z meeting. The issue had nothing to do with the applicants.

“They were fine. The problem was with Mr. Nieder and his friend Mr. Miller — I forget his name. They were not so fine …”

Sweeney took exception with Nieder’s questions about whether Sweeney had a conflict of interest serving on the panel.

“… I explained to Mr. Nieder that my mind just doesn’t work that way,” Sweeney wrote. “Apparently, Mr. Nieder believes that I will breach my fiduciary obligation and steer business away from Crestwood for my personal or professional gain. That is, quite crazy; but, it is also defamatory. Anyway, his friend Mr. Miller agreed, somehow based on the Ferguson muni court problems.”

As for Miller, Sweeney wrote, “Mr. Miller did not take kindly to my suggestion that his comments were not on point. It was my opinion that his behavior was inappropriate and that he was out of order. It was further my opinion that he was refusing to respond to the request of the chair. I gaveled him out of order, which in turn caused Mr. Nieder some consternation.

“The bottom line is that I informed both of them that if their disruption continued I would have them removed. I’m sure Mr. Nieder is not happy. I suspect Mr. Miller has never been happy in his life — I am not licensed to practice psychology, but I do have a quarter century of experience dealing with really crabby, really irrational folks; and, I think he’s one.”

Sweeney also offered to resign “if my presence is a problem.”

However, in an April 2 email to aldermen, Roby defended Sweeney.

“After listening to the audio, I contacted the secretary of the board who stated she summoned the police as a result of the disturbance being created by Mr. Miller and Mr. Nieder,” Roby wrote. “As mayor, and a citizen of this city, I am embarrassed that anyone should have to subject themselves to the type of disrespectful conduct and unprofessionalism I heard on the audio … I believe Mr. Sweeney, the new board chair, handled the situation with calm and professionalism …”

He also wrote, “In addition, Mr. Nieder has no respect for parliamentary procedure as is evident from his threatening outburst when Mr. Sweeney chose to use the gavel to restore order. As mayor, I have seen enough. I am recommending that each of you review the attached email and the website audio and make up your own mind as to whether Mr. Nieder should be removed for cause …”

Roby previously sought unsuccessfully to remove Nieder from the commission.