Proposal to redevelop former Crestwood Plaza to be made public April 15

Ex-aldermen, citizens critical of decision on RFP response

Lisa Stump

Photo by Lou Bopp

Lisa Stump

By Mike Anthony

The one response the city of Crestwood has received to its request for proposals to redevelop the former Crestwood Plaza will be made public Wednesday, April 15.

During a closed session last week, the Board of Aldermen voted 5-2 to release the response from the mall property’s owner, UrbanStreet Group of Chicago, 15 days after special and bond counsel is approved.

The board voted 6-1 to enter the closed session, with board President Mike Tsichlis of Ward 4 opposed. Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild was absent.

“As I believe what we’re going to discuss in closed session likely could be discussed in public session, I’m going to vote ‘no,'” Tsichlis said.

During a special board meeting that followed the March 31 closed session, aldermen voted 6-1 to adopt the second reading of an ordinance selecting Gilmore & Bell as special and bond counsel for the proposed redevelopment of the mall. Tsichlis was opposed.

Aldermen approved the first reading of the ordinance March 24, but Duchild voted “no” on a second reading of the ordinance that night. When a “no” vote is cast on the second reading of an ordinance, the measure cannot be considered again by the board until seven days have elapsed.

At the March 24 meeting, Mayor Gregg Roby called for a special meeting March 31 to consider the second reading of the ordinance selecting Gilmore & Bell.

City Administrator Mark Sime announced March 24 that the city had received one response to its request for proposals, or RFP, to redevelop the mall, but he determined that the response would not be released to the public.

Before the board considered the ordinance to select Gilmore & Bell March 31, Roby asked City Attorney Lisa Stump to report on the closed session held before the open meeting.

“… The board took two votes in closed session that are public — have become public,” she said. “The first was a motion to release the redevelopment proposal and that motion failed by a 4-3 vote. The second made in closed session was a motion to release the redevelopment proposal, submitted by UrbanStreet, 15 days after special and bond counsel is approved. And that motion did pass by a 5-2 vote.”

The closed-session motion to release UrbanStreet’s response to the city’s RFP was made by Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood and seconded by Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach. Trueblood, Ward 2 Alderman Mary Stadter, Ward 3 Alderman Bill Boston and Ward 4 Alderman Mike Vincent were opposed. Voting in favor were Wallach, Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding and Tsichlis.

The closed session motion to release the response 15 days after special and bond counsel is selected was made by Wallach and seconded by Vincent.

Aldermen voting in favor were Wallach, Breeding, Stadter, Boston and Vincent.

Opposed were Trueblood and Tsichlis.

Tsichlis noted that he and Duchild had sent separate email requests to Sime to place on the March 31 special meeting agenda an item for a vote on making UrbanStreet’s proposal public.

“Why was this not done?” he asked. “In my time as an alderman, this has never happened, to my knowledge …”

Roby asked Tsichlis what time he had sent an email requesting the issue be placed on the agenda, and Tsichlis replied his email was sent at 9 p.m. March 26.

“… The agendas were complete and sent out Thursday afternoon,” Roby said. “So that did not make the agenda.”

Tsichlis said, “The agenda was revised on March 30th, according to the recent agenda, and I don’t know what was revised on it. But there is a revision date of March 30th and this was not included. I want to know why.”

Roby said, “And I think I just explained to you, sir, why.”

“It fails the smell test,” Tsichlis said, later asking Sime why he did not respond to the two email requests to place the item on the agenda.

“The meeting was called by the mayor and he told me what the agenda would be for this meeting,” Sime said.

Regarding Sime’s decision to keep UrbanStreet’s response confidential, Stump said March 24 that was permitted under the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Act, also called the Sunshine Law.

“… Under the Sunshine Law, it’s a proposal submitted in response to a request for proposals and it’s going to be the subject of a negotiated contract with the developer. So under the Sunshine Law it can be exempt from disclosure until the board chooses to make it public or the contract is executed or all proposals are rejected …,” she said March 24.

But during a period for public comment March 31 before the board voted on the Gilmore & Bell ordinance, resident Martha Duchild, whose husband is Paul Duchild, took exception with Stump’s interpretation of the Sunshine Law.

“… I would like to say how disappointed I am that the board and the mayor and the city administrator (are) not releasing the mall plan immediately, as it should be released,” she said. “The reason cited, the exemption, is not applicable in this case because there is no negotiated contract. The board has not even selected a developer yet.

“You cannot have a negotiated contract before you’ve selected a developer. So the exemption cited, not only doesn’t make sense in this case, but that exemption was given to me as a reason not to provide me with a response to an RFP for the special and bond counsel. I was told by the city that closing the record is an exemption, and yet here it is,” she said, holding up the response.

“I received this from the city. The board hasn’t even voted to select bond counsel, yet the city provided me with this document …,” Martha Duchild added.

Regarding UrbanStreet’s RFP response, former Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel said, “… It is a proposal, a suggestion, an offer, a plan submitted by UrbanStreet. It is not a contract and does not pertain to a contract. It is not a document for negotiation by the city administrator. It is a document for consideration by this Board of Aldermen.

“It does not qualify as a closed record. It is a document that should be open to the public … Even if this was a negotiable document, Mr. Sime does not have the authority to negotiate that document — simply because this Board of Aldermen has not granted that power to Mr. Sime in this instance. So what is Mr. Sime trying to hide? Is there a Wal-Mart grocery store or the use of eminent domain in the proposal?

“Whatever the reason or the intent, it is subverting the democratic process. …”

Other speakers, including resident Robert Miller and former Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder, also were critical of the decision not to release the RFP response immediately.

UrbanStreet Group purchased the mall property last year for $2.625 million from Chicago-based Centrum Partners and New York-based Angelo, Gordon & Co., which owned the majority stake in the site.