Wildwood Ethics: More Action Taken
Special, external legal counsel was hired by Wildwood officials to conduct an investigation regarding a potential violation of Missouri Sunshine Law and Wildwood city charter guidelines by one city council member.
Special legal counsel is being sought by Wildwood representatives to conduct an investigation on July 20 about a city council member who maintains she did not violate Sunshine Laws.
Holly Parks, Ward 2 council member, was accused of violating Missouri's Sunshine law when she sent an electronic communication on May 19. That email, sent from home on her personal email account to a group of fellow council members, was about the potential reconsideration of Don Kozlowski as an appointed council member. Parks did not copy Wildwood's city clerk on the correspondence.
Parks sent the email to seven other council members. Including herself, eight council members were associated with the email, raising concerns that Parks may have violated the Sunshine Law by communicating privately with a majority of the city council.
Wildwood's traditional majority has been nine of the 16 council members; however, the vacancy left 15 sitting council members, making eight a majority.
Wildwood city attorney Rob Golterman advised council members to seek an outside, objective lawyer to conduct the investigation.
At Monday's city council meeting, Mayor Tim Woerther recommended a lawyer from Armstrong Teasdale in St. Louis be appointed: Jeffery McPherson. However, the suggested attorney was not present at the meeting for council members to questions, and several voiced concerns about hiring anyone without initial interaction.
Council member David Sewell, Ward 6, asked if there were other applicants, and was told there were two.
"We've not been presented with their backgrounds. I'm feeling we're being kept a little in the dark here," he said.
Woerther said the matter was being handled as a mayoral appointment, similar to how commissioners and other citizen committee volunteers are processed.
Council member Tammy Shea, Ward 3, questioned the independence of the recommended lawyer, asking if he had any ties to Golterman.
"None that I know of," was Golterman's answer.
Shea also asked if the attorney's experience in Sunshine Law was appropriate. On the Armstrong Teasdale website, McPherson's legal specialties are listed as "appellate" and "contract and commercial litigation."
Woerther said this law firm had experience in these sorts of violations. "I believe this specific attorney has handled them," he said.
However, through more questioning, it was revealed that neither the mayor or Wildwood city administrator Dan Dubruiel had physically spoken to McPherson.
"Even when we vote on council appointees, we usually get the chance to interview those people and to ask questions," said Sewell.
Council member Ed Marshall, Ward 2 and fellow counterpart to Parks, wanted to know exactly what the special attorney would do for the allocated $10,000 to handle the investigation.
Dubruiel said the intention for this person was to review the matters of complaint, assist with the investigation and hearing, and to make legal recommendations at the end of the hearing process.
“Nobody talked to this lawyer. Without talking to the actual person, I just don't think it's appropriate to hire him,” said Sewell. Council member David Geile, Ward 1, said he agreed it was important to have the chance to interact at least.
The council vote to go forward with the special attorney did pass 9-6, but obviously represented divided reactions. Council members who voted no on the motion were Sewell, Geile, Shea, Roppolo, McCulloch and Kranz.
Council member Parks was not present at the meeting. Woerther said Parks had been ill for the week prior.
Wildwood resident Dan Topik expressed concern over the whole matter during the meeting's public comment portion.
"I was disappointed in how the city council acted in regard to Don Kozlowski's nomination, and Holly Parks' role in the effort to make sure Don would not be appointed. Holly and the members of the city council who voted against Don did so for their own personal agendas and disregarded the wishes of the residents of Ward 1," said Topik.
He said he believed there should have been a debate at the city council meeting as to whether Kozlowski was qualified to serve the residents of Ward 1, and not a secret e-mail to vote against Kozlowski's nomination.
"Now the city council has voted to initiate an investigation to determine if Holly's actions violated the city charter guidelines and the state of Missouri's Sunshine Law. Holly, as a veteran council person, should have known better," said Topik.
Now the city will have to engage outside counsel to conduct the investigation, and this is an unnecessary expense, he said.
"Holly Parks should resign from the city council for her inappropriate action and save the city of Wildwood the expense and publicity of an investigation. By her actions, Holly has left a black mark on Wildwood," said Topik.
For additional background about this matter, read two prior Eureka-Wildwood Patch articles:
Wildwood Council Member Says She Did Not Violate Sunshine Law, published June 14.
Wildwood Ethics: City Council Member Accused Of Violating Open Meeting Laws, published June 30.