Opponent contends Ayouaz does not meet city’s requirements to be on April 5 ballot

Stump says no legal opinion made on candidacy question

Ismaine Ayouaz

Ismaine Ayouaz

By Mike Anthony

A Crestwood candidate seeking election to the Board of Aldermen contended last week that another candidate does not meet the city’s requirements to be on the ballot.

Former Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder told the Board of Aldermen Feb. 9 that another Ward 4 candidate, Ismaine Ayouaz, does not meet the city Charter and city code requirements to be on the April 5 ballot.

Ayouaz filed for office on the last day of filing — Jan. 19 — and is on the ballot along with Nieder, Ryan Pascoe and Tony Kennedy.

During a period for public comment, Nieder contended that Ayouaz’s name should not have been placed on the April ballot because Ayouaz was not a registered voter for one year before the Jan. 19 filing deadline.

As such, Nieder said he hoped Ayouaz would petition the court to remove his name from the April 5 ballot “since he does not meet the qualifications.”

Nieder cited a press release that Ayouaz issued Oct. 13 announcing his plans to run as a write-in candidate for the Ward 4 seat.

The press release stated, “The candidate, who was born in Paris, France, became a U.S. citizen earlier this year. To be an alderman, he also must reside in the ward he will represent and he must be a registered St. Louis County voter for at least 12 months. Ayouaz will meet all requirements by the time of his election in April 2016, but he will not have been a registered voter for 12 months at the time of the filing deadline in mid-January. Because he cannot meet the filing deadline, he will conduct a write-in campaign for the Ward 4 seat.”

The city Charter states, “No person shall be elected or appointed to the Board of Aldermen who is not at least 21 years of age, a citizen of the United States, an inhabitant and a qualified voter of the city for at least one year, and a resident of the respective ward for at least 90 days.”

Ayouaz, who became a registered voter on Feb. 6, 2015, has told the Call that he filed for office on Jan. 19 on the advice of his attorney. He has declined to identify his attorney.

Given the discrepancy between Ayaouz’s announcement that he would seek election as a write-in candidate and then filing to be on the ballot, Nieder said he submitted a public-records request to the city “for email exchanges between Mr. Ayouaz and the city, hoping to find an explanation.”

Nieder cited an April 7 email City Clerk Helen Ingold wrote to Ayouaz that stated, “I heard from the city attorney. Since you became a registered voter on Feb. 6, 2015, the one-year period would end on or around Feb. 6. The final date for filing for alderman in the April 2016 election is Jan. 19, 2016. Therefore, you would not be eligible to run for alderman in April 2016.”

Given the April 7 email, Nieder asked how Ayouaz could be placed on the April ballot.

Mayor Gregg Roby said, “We’ll look into that for you.”

Nieder then asked, “… What legal justification was provided to the city to list Mr. Ayouaz as a candidate, since as the city correctly determined on April 7, 2015, he was ineligible. Why did the city back down from its legal position, given its original interpretation was correct?”

Roby said, “And again, I can’t answer that.”

Nieder said, “Well, perhaps our attorney can.”

City Attorney Lisa Stump said, “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you finish asking your questions and I would be happy to give you a little brief synopsis …”

Nieder asked, “… Why are city officials failing to comply with the city Charter and code they swore an oath to defend and uphold?”

Stump responded, “The city is obligated — the city clerk, when she receives a certification that’s been attested to, she is obligated by law to place that person on the ballot.”

Nieder asked, “Where do you find that at?”

Stump said, “It’s in case law and it’s in the statutes.”

Nieder said, “Even though you know up front and have acknowledged the fact that he isn’t eligible?”

Stump said, “I think you’re interpreting the facts different than they actually occurred, Mr. Nieder.”

Nieder replied, “I’m not interpreting anything. I read directly what was given to Mr. Ayouaz …”

After an exchange between Nieder and Stump, the city attorney said, “… You’re taking an email and you’re not letting me explain what may or may not have occurred at the time, and that’s OK.”

Nieder said, “Go ahead.”

Stump said, “… In April, the city clerk was asked a question by a patron, and the city clerk answered to the best of her ability — like a lot of people call and ask her questions about different interpretations of the Charter and of the code. She was asked to confirm that interpretation with me and asked for my opinion. I briefly looked at it and I gave her my opinion of what it was and that was the end of the situation. There wasn’t any legal opinion issued.

“Whether or not he complies with the Charter or not and the legal requirements is not an issue for the city right now. He filed an attestation and a certification saying that he is qualified to run and so the city clerk is obligated by law to accept that statement that was made and to put it on the ballot. And if there’s a dispute, it’s not the city’s role right now to get in the middle of it.”

Nieder said, “Even though you know for a fact …?”

Stump replied, “I don’t know — I don’t know for a fact …”

Nieder said, “… Well, it seems kind of strange. You were asked …”

Stump said, “… My involvement was a brief involvement. I don’t know even what he said to the city clerk. I don’t — I mean I didn’t investigate anything. I don’t know for a fact. I told you I would give you a little synopsis and that’s about all the questions I can answer right now.”

Roby later said, “We don’t put the names on the ballots, Mr. Nieder. I think you know that. I think that the election commission, once the information’s been turned over to them, they verify the signatures on the petition and they make the determination that the person is eligible. And I would say, if you have a — if you feel you have a legal issue here that it be taken up through the state of Missouri and the election commission. But the city doesn’t have the jurisdiction over the election commission.”

Nieder said, “… In keeping with his campaign website pledge to ‘be honest and lead with integrity,’ I hope that Ismaine will petition the court to remove his name from the April 5 ballot since he does not meet the qualifications to be placed as a candidate for alderman on the ballot for the 2016 municipal election.”

Asked about Nieder’s remarks, Ayouaz told the Call after the meeting, “… I have no comment.”

Asked if he believes he is qualified to be on the ballot, he said, “According to my attorney, yes.”

Ayouaz again declined to identify his attorney.