South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Some residents dissatisfied with process to fill vacancy

Miguel says May 24 meeting marks new low in city politics.

Some Crestwood residents expressed dissatisfaction last week with the way the Board of Aldermen went about filling Mayor Jeff Schlink’s former Ward 2 aldermanic seat.

Aldermen voted 4-3 on May 24 to reject Schlink’s appointment of former Crestwood police Lt. Doug Mosby to the seat, which Schlink vacated after being elected mayor in April. The same four board members who voted against appointing Mosby to the seat — Ward 1 Alderman Mimi Duncan, Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel and Ward 4 Aldermen Deborah Beezley and John Foote — voted last week in favor of seating former Alderman Steve Knarr, who was sworn in June 14. Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach and Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel, who supported Mosby’s appointment, voted to appoint longtime resident Robert Deutschmann to the seat. Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild, who also supported Mosby, was absent.

Some aldermen who blocked Mosby’s appointment last month have said they were uncomfortable placing a former city employee on the board while some of his former colleagues still worked for the city. In addition, Mosby acknowledged that Crestwood has been a customer of his current employer and that he was “not comfortable” with a proposed new redevelopment agreement for Sappington Square.

But a few residents contended last week that the board’s rejection of Mosby was inappropriate because he otherwise met the criteria outlined in the city Charter to serve as alderman.

“By creating a different set of standards that you used to justify your rejection of Mr. Mosby, you effectively amended the Charter,” former Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder told the board after reading the Charter’s aldermanic requirements. “The Charter, Mr. Pickel, Ms. Beezley, Mrs. Duncan and Mr. Foote, can only be changed by a vote of the people. I ask that out of respect for the city’s Charter, and your duty as aldermen to uphold it, you reconsider your ‘no’ votes and appoint Mr. Mosby — a candidate that clearly meets the qualifications defined in the city’s Charter. This is the only way to redress the wrong that was committed at the last (board) meeting.”

John Morrissette, a Ward 2 resident, complained that there was no period for public comment on Mosby’s appointment at the last board meeting.

“It rushed through,” Morrissette said. “A few questions were asked — minor questions were asked. And then Mrs. Beezley gave a comment – I guess you’d call it. It sounded more like a rant about Mr. Mosby and the various objections she saw, which are not ones in the list that are in the Charter. And then a quick vote was immediately taken and he was rejected and that was it.

“No chance for comments or anything. So my comment is that I don’t think it was done properly. I think it was a preconceived plan to reject Mr. Mosby and it worked.”

Duncan, who as board president presided over the May 24 meeting in Schlink’s absence, said in response to Morrissette that she sought the advice of City Attorney Rob Golterman throughout the meeting.

“We did things according to the Charter and according to his recommendation. So I would have to disagree with you that it was done incorrectly,” Duncan said.

In response to Nieder’s comments, Wallach asked Golterman, “As long as the … citizen meets the qualifications that we have in this Charter, is it right for us as a board to reject that person if that resident is already qualified?”

Golterman replied, “Whether it’s right I think is subjective, up to each person on the board. Those qualifications set out in the Charter are minimum qualifications to serve to either run for election and be elected and serve or to be appointed and serve. Those are minimum qualifications under the law. Otherwise, there would be no reason to even have a process. If there was no discretion on the part of the board to determine whether they want an individual to serve or not … The board certainly has discretion individually to vote how they choose on a particular candidate.”

Ward 2 resident Tom Ford proposed that for future vacancies the board establish a 30-day application period, followed by a vetting process with resident participation.

“Like Mr. Nieder, I see no reason for Mr. Mosby’s rejection,” Ford said. “That said, there’s nothing I can do about it. Consequently I’ll just tell you I’m disappointed about it … as are several other people.”

Don Clark, of Ward 2, told aldermen they reminded him of a previous board that “voted the way they wanted to vote, except they didn’t care what the people said.”

“Ward 2 people will come back, and they will get an alderman in here that will do the job that the people want to do,” he said.

A few days after Mosby’s appointment was rejected, Schlink told the Call he believed some aldermen already had in mind who they would recommend to fill his seat.

“I had two aldermen call with a recommendation for a particular person, and they both recommended the exact same person. I’m not one to believe that that was a coincidence …,” Schlink said last month.

While at the time he only identified the candidate as having an “architectural background,” Schlink confirmed in response to a question from Miguel last week that it was Knarr.

When Miguel asked whom the aldermen were that contacted Schlink, Pickel and Foote acknowledged they had done so but stressed Knarr was simply one name that came to mind.

“The conversation I had with the mayor shortly after he was elected, I was offering up a couple names. I thought as an alderman in Ward 2, I would put some names out there,” Pickel said. ” … It was never phrased that I expect or would like to see (Knarr) be nominated. I identified him as being someone that might be able to serve the city well.”

Foote said, “In no shape or form did I say ‘This is who I want.’ It was a name offered with a hand helping out not a hand dictating.”

Miguel asked Schlink, “Just out of curiosity, what was the time lapse between those two calls?”

Schlink said, “… (A) relatively short period of time.”

Miguel said, “Same day?”

Schlink said, “Same day.”

Later, during a period for aldermanic reports, Duncan said, “There are several things that I’ve learned in the last three weeks. I’ve learned why it is hard to get good people to participate in the political process. I have learned that I’m a competitive person, but I don’t like to play a game that I can’t win. I will not govern through the press but rather I will govern here in the Board of Aldermen chambers. I’ve also learned that I’ll fight my own battles, even though my husband would like to step in for me.

“I have also learned that you need to respect the office of the mayor as well as respect the office of the aldermen and not just the people that are in the office. I’ve also learned that some people say that statements that they make are political but really they become personal and sometimes they hurt. I think it’s important to as Ronald Reagan said, ‘Trust, but verify.’ And I think the mall is the most important thing that we have left to accomplish and move toward, and we need to start that process.”

Miguel said the May 24 board meeting “marks a low point in Crestwood politics.”

“It is a day that will long be remembered,” Miguel said toward the end of last week’s board meeting. “I am saddened and am deeply troubled by what happened that day. Namely, Mr. Mosby, who answered Mayor Schlink’s call to serve, was ambushed.”

Miguel read excerpts from a recent editorial by Call Executive Editor Mike Anthony and a subsequent letter to the editor by Martha Duchild, wife of Alderman Paul Duchild. Both pieces were critical of the four aldermen who rejected Mosby and contended their decision was politically motivated.

“I think Mr. Anthony and Mrs. Duchild hit it right on the head,” Miguel said. “… In summary, after his election, Mayor Schlink reached out to the residents of Ward 2. Mr. Mosby answered the call to help. He did not deserve to be bushwhacked and slapped in the face.”

Foote read his own letter to the editor to the Call, which took issue with Anthony’s editorial, and added, “Part of our problem is we spend more time on emotion and not enough time on issues. I welcome the approach that Mr. Schlink brings to the mayor’s job and I for one will do my utmost to support his efforts. I will, however, continue to serve as an alderman and make decisions based on my business and background experience.

“That’s what I’m in here for, and that’s why I represent the people in Ward 4.”

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