Officials make correct call in delaying board meeting

“Call the Tune” by Mike Anthony
Executive Editor
news1@callnewspapers.com

It’s no secret that we believe transparency in the city of Crestwood has taken a huge hit under City Attorney Lisa Stump of Lashly & Baer.
Stump’s overly broad interpretation of Sunshine Law exemptions that permit meetings and documents to be closed from the public flies in the face of the law itself, which is designed to promote transparency and accountability in government.
The city of Crestwood for many years was a beacon of transparency in the region. Sadly, that’s no longer the case. Where closed sessions of the Board of Aldermen once were a rarity, now they are routinely called.
Just consider the lawsuit the city filed against the Affton Fire Protection District that challenges as unconstitutional the state laws requiring the city to indefinitely make annual payments to the AFPD for providing fire service to an area that Crestwood annexed in 1997.
To date, the lawsuit has cost Crestwood taxpayers over $26,500, yet residents do not know which aldermen voted to authorize the lawsuit, as city officials have declined to release that information. That’s unfortunate, as we believe the more than $26,500 already spent is just the tip of the iceberg in a lawsuit that could drag on for years and years, incurring monumental legal costs for the city.
Stump and her firm are the big winners, as the city’s cost for legal services has been steadily increasing since they were hired in mid-2013.
Legal services cost $162,583 in 2013, $144,363 in 2014, $156,845 in 2015 and $198,061 in 2016. For 2017, total expenditures of $226,000 are projected, while the 2018 budget allocates $225,000 for legal services.
While we have our concerns about Crestwood’s lack of transparency, we have no qualms about giving credit where it’s due. Crestwood officials late Friday decided to postpone a special Board of Aldermen meeting scheduled the next day.
The agenda posted for the meeting stated it was set to begin at 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, at the Government Center. But that time was incorrect and the meeting actually was supposed to begin at 9 a.m., according to City Administrator Kris Simpson.
Rather than going forward with a meeting that possibly could face a legal challenge for being convened with less than 24 hours’ notice as required by the Sunshine Law, city officials elected to delay the session.
As such, we believe they should be commended for erring on the side of sunshine and postponing the meeting.