UPDATED: Defeated Crestwood candidate’s qualifications remain an issue

Crestwood board conducts closed meeting on May 12

Ismaine Ayouaz

Ismaine Ayouaz

By Mike Anthony

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen voted 5-2 in a closed session last week to request that City Attorney Lisa Stump draft a “brief” statement clarifying the board’s authority regarding qualifications of candidates.

Recently seated Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel called for the closed session after being shut down earlier this year when questioning city officials about the qualifications of Ward 4 candidate Ismaine Ayouaz for the April 5 election.

Former Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder told the Board of Aldermen Feb. 9 that Ayouaz did not meet the city Charter and city code requirements to be on the ballot.

Ayouaz filed for office on the last day of filing — Jan. 19 — and was on the Ward 4 ballot along with Nieder, Ryan Pascoe and Tony Kennedy. Kennedy prevailed in the election.

Aldermen voting during the May 12 closed session to request that Stump draft the statement were Miguel, Ward 2 Aldermen Justin Charboneau and Mary Stadter, board President Grant Mabie of Ward 3 and Ward 4 Alderman Tim Anderson.

Opposed were Ward 1 Aldermen Richard Breeding and Darryl Wallach. Kennedy was not present.

Stump was requested to draft the statement before the Tuesday, May 24, meeting of the Board of Aldermen, according to information provided by the city in response to a public-records request. Besides clarifying the board’s authority regarding qualifications of candidates, the statement will expand on a statement Stump read at the Feb. 23 board meeting.

Nieder contended that Ayouaz’s name should not have been placed on the April ballot because he was not a registered voter for one year before the Jan. 19 filing deadline, citing a press release that Ayouaz issued Oct. 13 announcing his plans to run as a write-in candidate.

In response, Stump read the Feb. 23 statement that essentially imposed a gag order on city officials regarding questions or comments about Ayouaz’s qualifications.

In part, the statement said, “… Based on Missouri law and controlling legal precedent, the city has determined that once Mr. Ayouaz filed his written, signed and sworn declaration certifying under oath that he met all the qualifications to serve as an alderman, the City Clerk (Helen Ingold) was legally obligated to certify Mr. Ayouaz’s name to the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners …”

Miguel, who served nine years as a Ward 3 alderman before being term-limited out in 2013, defeated incumbent Bill Boston and Spencer Talbott in the April 5 election to reclaim his former seat.

Miguel asked that the issue of candidate qualifications be placed on the board’s May 10 public agenda, and sought the May 12 executive session to discuss if any closed records regarding how city officials dealt with Ayouaz’s qualifications could be released to the public.

“… I asked that this item be placed on the agenda because I believe there has been a serious violation of our city Charter,” Miguel said May 10. “Further, it appears to me that willfully and falsely swearing to an election official is a Class 1 offense, according to state statute 115.631. And as elected officials of a charter city, we are sworn to uphold the Charter. I had hoped that documents and meeting audios could be declassified before this meeting. When I learned that was not possible, I decided to develop and present a quick time line of some key events. I have avoided access to classified material because I do not want to be inhibited in what I say, as possibly being misrepresented as information that I obtained from access to classified material.”

In his time line, Miguel noted Ayouaz became a registered voter on Feb. 6, 2015, Ayouaz asked the city’s Charter Review Commission in May to change the Charter so he would be eligible to run in 2016 and Ayouaz issued an Oct. 13 press release stating he would run as a write-in candidate before filing to be on the ballot. Miguel also cited a Feb. 18 closed session of the board in which this issue was discussed.

“… The Charter is very clear that a candidate must be a qualified voter of the city for at least one year, as of the date of filing for election,” Miguel said. “Mr. Ayouaz is on record more than once, admitting he does not meet the … requirements. So I have a question. Can the contents of the meeting now be declassified?”

Stump said closed records, including the audio of the Feb. 18 closed session, would remain closed unless aldermen voted to release such records. She recommended that the board meet in closed session to review the records and determine what records, if any, could be made public.

Charboneau later attempted to speak, but Stump interjected, saying, “Alderman Charboneau, just before you say anything, I just want to clarify because you were present in other closed sessions, that just any of you aldermen, I mean Alderman Miguel made it clear he has not seen the documents or he was not there — just, I would just caution you to be careful in your statements to make sure no confidential information is divulged.”

Charboneau said he had no problem with a closed session, noting this was the second time in three years an issue has been made of a candidate’s qualifications.

“I personally believe that the Charter does not give clear direction when someone signs up, OK? Now if someone were to win, I believe it gives clear direction that if someone who doesn’t live in our town, who didn’t become a registered voter, has a criminal record, anything that basically would exclude them from serving, I believe that after the election is when we are able to seat that individual or if we determine such that the individual doesn’t meet the qualifications, removing the individual …,” he said, adding that he has a friend who is a county clerk. “Our clerk did nothing wrong in this process …”

Charboneau added, “… I could easily answer these questions for everyone, but I can’t go into it because of things that were discussed. But it would make it pretty cut and dry for everyone, but as I mentioned currently the way stands, there’s really no governing body or anything that says you can’t sign up or you signed up and you’re wrong for signing up because you didn’t meet x, y and z …”

Typically, an opponent must challenge another candidate’s qualifications, he said.

Miguel later referenced Stump’s statement, noting he had asked her in March to identify the state law and controlling legal precedent she cited. At that time, Stump told Miguel, “We’re not going to address that anymore.”

Last week, Miguel said, “… I think that was a fair question then. I think it’s a fair question now. What state statutes were you referring to in your statement and what case law were your referring to?”

Stump said, “… The legal resources that were used to formulate the opinion and the decision ultimately by the Board of Aldermen, that’s all legal work product and that’s all closed documents … So I cannot at this point tell you what the reasoning was and what the specific support or nonsupport was. I’m not comfortable doing that without the approval of the board. So I would ask that that be — after the closed-session meeting if the board would like, if the board chooses to release the actual legal analysis, that’s the board’s decision …”

“… There’s a lot of questions that I could ask, but I don’t think there is going to be any answers provided this evening because I think they probably all touch on matters which have been closed to the public …,” Miguel later said, calling for a closed session to discuss what records, if any, could be opened to the public.

After additional discussion, three aldermen — Miguel, Charboneau and Anderson — called for the closed session that was conducted May 12.