Ellisville situation shows what a small world it is

By Mike Anthony

We’ve been reading with interest about the situation in Ellisville involving the effort to impeach Mayor Adam Paul.

Paul was swept into office last year based on his opposition to the use of tax-increment financing, or TIF, for a proposed Wal-Mart store.

The Ellisville City Council was scheduled to make a decision Monday — after the Call went to press — on whether Paul should be impeached.

No matter what happened, we’re sure it won’t be the end of the story.

A familiar name to us in the proceedings is Ellisville City Attorney Paul Martin. Martin, as some may recall, once served as the city attorney for Green Park. In fact, Martin was city attorney in the 1990s when Home Depot sought a TIF to construct a store on South Lindbergh Boulevard in Green Park.

When that city’s six-member Board of Aldermen was considering an ordinance to grant up to $4.5 million in tax-increment financing to Home Depot, three aldermen voted in favor of the ordinance and three aldermen abstained.

Martin previously had advised then-Mayor Larry Kuban, “… It is my opinion that abstentions which are made to thwart the political process are, in fact, improper, and those kind of abstentions can be declared negative votes. And the mayor can break a tie in those circumstances.”

Martin proffered his recommendation despite a 1981 attorney general’s opinion stating an alderman of a fourth-class city who abstains from voting “does not have his abstention counted as a vote.”

Armed with Martin’s opinion, Kuban changed the three abstentions to “no” votes to create a 3-3 board tie. After declaring the abstentions as “no” votes, Kuban cast the deciding vote to approve the ordinance.

Many, including this newspaper, didn’t believe Kuban’s decision was lawful, and after a lengthy legal battle, then-St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Romines ruled in September 1999 that the TIF ordinance was not lawfully approved because “… abstentions are not votes and cannot be counted as such to satisfy the statutory requirements for enactment of ordinances.”

Last week, Ellisville hired attorney John Maupin to preside over the impeachment hearing.

Ironically, Maupin was one of the attorneys representing Home Depot in its effort to uphold the legality of Kuban’s action.

Small world, isn’t it?