‘Robo Alderman’ morphs into an ‘Absent Alderman’

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

Sunset Hills’ “Robo Alderman” has morphed into an “Absent Alderman.”

Ward 3 Alderman Keith Kostial was nowhere to be seen at three Board of Aldermen meetings last month — not in person or even by videoconferencing. Kostial, who was elected to the board in 2015 but did not file for re-election in April, has attended more Board of Aldermen meetings via videoconferencing than in person since December 2015.

While we firmly believe elected officials have an obligation to physically attend meetings of the body to which they were elected, Kostial repeatedly has insisted his physical presence is not required at board meetings, as his job frequently takes him out of state.

He has cited a 2013 change to the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Act to allow roll-call votes to be cast by elected officials attending a meeting “via videoconferencing.”

In November, Kostial graced fellow aldermen and residents with his physical presence at a Board of Aldermen meeting. But in December, Kostial attended the board meeting via videoconferencing, but not without a few sparks flying, as not all aldermen were in favor of Kostial’s preferred form of attendance.

The board voted 6-2 to permit Kostial to attend the meeting via videoconferencing, with Ward 1 Alderman Dee Baebler and Ward 4 Alderman Thompson Price opposed.

However, Kostial did not attend three meetings in January — the board’s regular meeting on Jan. 10, a special closed session on Jan. 23 and a work session on Jan. 24.

During the Jan. 23 closed session, aldermen voted to hire St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Stephen Dodge as the city’s new police chief. Dodge will succeed William LaGrand, who is retiring after serving nearly three decades as the city’s police chief.

In addition, Kostial, who serves on the Parks and Recreation Commission, did not attend the Jan. 25 meeting of that panel. Kostial also wasn’t present last week during a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting that was packed with residents of his ward who were opposed to a 24-acre residential subdivision proposed by Benton Homebuilders Inc. The panel recommended against approval of the proposal for 26 single-family residences.

Kostial has just a few meetings left to attend until his term expires in April. If he’s not planning on attending those meetings, he should resign now, as he’s already effectively disenfranchised Ward 3 residents.