Ex-alderman’s video recording of meetings draws ire of other ex-officials

Former alderman explains her reason for not running for re-election in April

By Kari Williams

A former alderman used a video camera to record last week’s Crestwood Board of Aldermen meeting, causing other former aldermen in the audience to take exception.

Former Ward 1 Alderman Mimi Duncan questioned former Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder’s ability to visually record the meeting and asked what would prohibit Nieder, or anyone who records meetings, from editing and posting the content on the Internet.

But resident David Brophy defended the public’s right to record meetings, noting that media professionals and City Clerk Tina Flowers do the same.

“We live in a land of free speech,” he told the board, “but free speech in a public space does not allow one to hide from the public. The fact of the matter is that when one speaks, one is recorded right here every time one speaks, usually.”

Resident Carol Wagner, however, took exception to Brophy’s remarks, saying the city clerk and the media are “reputable people who are taking this information.”

“If something is filmed in this chamber, we have no assurance that that is not going to be cut up, changed, looped — whatever – and put on YouTube or somewhere else,” Wagner said, “and I think if we don’t have something in place to prevent that kind of stuff at random that we should …

“It’s very easy to misconstrue things like that. That’s my objection and I don’t think that free speech is what allows anybody at all to come in here with a camera and film.”

Former Ward 4 Alderman Deborah Beezley said she supported Wagner and Duncan’s statements, as well.

Beezley said she does not have a problem with voice recording, but “video recording is inappropriate and I have an expectation that the city attorney will let us know at the next meeting exactly what the rules are relative to this.

“I am very concerned about where information is placed from a picture standpoint,” she said. “Audio, I’m fine with. Picture, I am very concerned with.

“So I think we have a right as citizens of the United States of America to make a decision whether our picture is placed somewhere, and I would trust that this opportunity ceases …,” Beezley said.

But Brophy again contended that broadcast media professionals have attended and recorded Crestwood meetings in the past.

“The fact of the matter is that to prohibit the news media or the public, which the news media is part of and who represents the public, is, to my point of view, a stab in the heart of the First Amendment of free speech and freedom of the press,” he said. “… I think it would be reprehensible to bar the news media or others from recording the meetings that are public meetings as they have been done so in the past.”

But a “big difference” exists between the news media and “a gentleman in the back with a very tiny camera filming everybody,” according to Beezley.

City Attorney Lisa Stump said unless Crestwood has ex-emptions to the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Act, or Sunshine Law, in its municipal code or City Charter, it is legal to video record the meetings.

Additionally, Stump said, according to the Missouri attorney general, recording meetings is allowed, but public bodies can “establish guidelines to minimize disruptions.”

Duncan also addressed the board, explaining her reason for not running for re-election when her term expired last April.

“… I served for four years on this board. I was happy to do it. Ward 1 was great. I’ve lived in the city of Crestwood for over 30 years,” she said. “I am one of those ‘alderpeople’ or aldermen that the newspaper said we had no intestinal fortitude because we chose not to run again.

“I would say that there are a lot of reasons I didn’t run again. One of them is I didn’t want to put up with arrogance, mean-spiritedness and misinformation that I had to deal with.

“Under the current regime, we had a felon on the ballot,” she said, adding that Doercrest Manor residents’ safety concerns about the expansion of Long Elementary School have not been resolved.

Bill Schelinski, who unsuccessfully sought a Ward 2 seat on the Board of Aldermen in April, pleaded guilty to a Class 3 Felony in 1996 in Cook County, Ill.

Duncan also took exception with the Board of Aldermen’s decision not to proceed with a $29,000 study of Centrum Partners’ proposal to redevelop the former Crestwood Court site at Watson and Sappington roads.

After the third rejection by the board, Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets, or PGAV, withdrew its proposal to assist the city with the study.

“… PGAV was bashed — multiple times — a very good company,” she said. “I’m mortified the way that was handled. Who’s going to work with us if we continue to do things like that? …”

Duncan also told aldermen that she feels bad for Crestwood employees.

“It’s like they’re under martial law and there’s a hit list,” she said, reciting the first names of several female employees who no longer work for the city or who no longer will work for the city at the end of the year. “Does anybody see a pattern there with those names? I certainly do.”

Duncan also questioned the city’s animal-control position being eliminated at the end of the year, the fact that the city has issued requests for proposals from companies that would take over Crestwood’s information-technology and financial services and how the proposed redevelopment of Crestwood Court has been handled.

“Crestwood Court, we really bungled an opportunity there. We’re not doing anything. What’s next? I had to figure out what Jersey barriers were and I never thought I would see those in my city at a place were I shopped for a lot of time,” Duncan said. “What’s going to be next, chain-link fence and concertina wire? I don’t know. I’m concerned about my city.”

She later said, “… My name’s Mimi Duncan. I am a resident and I hope everybody exercises their right to change administrations in April.”

Contacted by the Call, Schlink declined to comment on Duncan’s statements regarding why she did not run for re-election.

However, as far as the list of employees she cited, he said “certainly there’s a longer list of people, but she only pointed out female employees.”