Green Park mayor rejects request for probe of former alderman’s residency

Former Alderman Betlach says “mediocrity is good.”

By BURKE WASSON

Green Park Mayor Tony Konopka last week rejected a resident’s request for an investigation of a former alderman’s residency during her last 18 months in office.

Referring to resident Michael Broughton’s allegations as “baseless,” Konopka said city officials have no interest in investigating the residency of longtime former Ward 1 Alderman Judy Betlach, who resigned effective Dec. 8.

But Broughton told city officials at the Dec. 17 Board of Aldermen meeting that “circumstantial evidence” he compiled indicates Betlach has had two places of residence since June 2006 — including one outside the city’s boundaries.

Betlach purchased a home in unincorporated south county on June 14, 2006, according to county records. At that time, she also was living inside the city in a home that had been owned by her father, Betlach told the Call last week.

Betlach, who said she was “simply dumbfounded” by Broughton’s accusations, subsequently acquired the property in Green Park through a transfer of ownership in October. She also said that she resided at both properties during the last 18 months of her aldermanic tenure.

“Frankly, I’m still doing that,” Betlach said. “I’ve got the paperwork … Even though my nephew is renting there, I still have stuff there. I get to keep my stuff there. I get to keep a room. I get to do all that stuff because I was concerned about such possible residency concerns. So I’ve got a good legal trail. And if (Broughton) wants it … he can see it. But I don’t think it’s any of his business.”

Betlach cited a decision to move out of the city as the primary reason why she resigned. Betlach was appointed as a Ward 1 alderman in 1995, won election in 1996, was voted out of office in 1997 and re-elected to the board in 2000, serving continuously as an alderman since that time. She also served as mayor pro tem in 2000.

While a newsletter that confirmed Betlach’s resignation identified Carol Hamilton as a possible replacement for Betlach on the board, city officials will discuss that appointment at a meeting tentatively set for Jan. 7.

Broughton, who read a letter to the Board of Aldermen Dec. 17, said because Betlach resided simultaneously at homes inside and outside the city, that’s sufficient reason for an investigation of possible “unlawful acts.”

“I believe that this information constitutes circumstantial evidence sufficient to warrant a request to the St. Louis County prosecutor for an investigation into the aldermanic qualifications of Judy Betlach during the period from June 2006 to Dec. 8, 2007,” he wrote. “Also, to investigate possible violation of Missouri election laws, possible false statements relative to a variety of legal documents concerning her residency, possible violation of Green Park city ordinance and any relevant unlawful acts perpetrated while under the color and cover of an elected official of the city of Green Park.”

Section 79.070 of the Missouri Revised Statutes states that to be qualified as an alderman in a fourth-class city such as Green Park, a person must be “an inhabitant and resident of the city for one year next preceding his or her election, and a resident, at the time he or she files and during the time he or she serves, of the ward from which he or she is elected.”

Betlach said last week that even though she lived in a home outside city limits during her last 18 months in office, the fact that she simultaneously resided at a home inside the city during that same time period absolves her from any wrongdoing.

“I’ve been there,” she said. “I own both properties … I wasn’t there a hundred percent of the time. So I don’t know what else.”

Broughton also wrote in his letter that he believes “no occupancy permit has been issued” for new residents living in Betlach’s Green Park property.

“There are new residents at that location,” Broughton wrote. “They have been living there for many months. No occupancy permit has been issued. This property is owned — as of Oct. 19, 2007 — by former Alderman Betlach. Why was an occupancy permit not obtained at the change of residents and/or the change of ownership on Oct. 19, 2007?”

While Betlach did not respond to the allegation of no occupancy permit being issued, she did say that her nephew has lived in the Green Park home and that she had signed “an agreement” with him.

“With knowing that my nephew was going to come over and rent, we signed an agreement,” Betlach said. “He didn’t necessarily take occupancy right away. So it was grandfathered in. But we cohabited the house. And I have a legal document to that effect. But that’s none of Mr. Broughton’s business. Who has hired Mr. Broughton as the policeman of Green Park? …”

Broughton also states in his letter that he called Betlach’s telephone number Dec. 10.

“I called that number on the morning of Dec. 10,” Broughton wrote. “A male answered. He informed me that ‘Judy’ was no longer at this number. The man said that he acquired the telephone number ‘about three weeks ago,’ which would have been sometime in mid-November.”

Betlach’s last meeting serving as a Green Park alderman took place on Nov. 19.

The ex-alderman said despite some recent scrutiny the city has taken over the Green Park Road project and inquiries about ambulance service the city receives from the Mehlville Fire Protection District, Betlach believes she “made a difference” in the years she served as an alderman.

She said that a perceived “flip-flop” of aldermen’s feelings on the redesign of Green Park Road is false and noted that the project has changed from its original incarnation as a planned sidewalk now has been moved to the road’s less residential north side along Clydesdale Park.

“The project talked about prior to the election is a totally different project today,” Betlach said. “It’s acceptable. It’s considering the needs of a lot of the citizens, not just the needs of Mr. Strong-Arm (former Mayor Steve Armstrong). So you can call a flip-flop a flip-flop.”

And in response to a plea from city incorporation leader and former Alderman Fred Hoehn at Betlach’s last meeting — Nov. 19 — that a “wrong” decision regarding a study of business licenses “will forever sentence this city to mediocrity,” Betlach told the Call that “mediocrity is good.”

“We don’t have full-time mayors,” Betlach said. “We don’t have full-time aldermen. I think the aldermen make $8 a day. And mediocrity is good.”