Robert Sweeney is the ethically challenged attorney for a number of government entities in and around Jefferson County, including serving as city attorney for Arnold and Byrnes Mill as well as faraway Iberia, MO (?!). He has illegally kicked candidates off of ballots for political reasons, shilled for red light camera company American Traffic Solutions, received exorbitant payments for his work in Arnold, and possibly steered government money to union organizers. But now he has found his way onto the Planning and Zoning Board in Crestwood, where he lives. But instead of operating in the background, in this position he sits up on the dais.
Conflict of Interest
Sweeney was appointed to the board in November 2014, and voted in as chairman on April 1 of this year (which seems oddly rapid). That chairman vote was not without controversy, though, as reported by the Oakville Call newspaper. Another board member, Steve Nieder (who the mayor tried to remove last year), questioned whether it was a conflict of interest for Sweeney to serve on the board while also serving as city attorney for three other municipalities. Here’s some of the exchange (see more at the link):
“I would beg to disagree with you on that. I think working for other cities is more of a conflict than anything else could possibly be …,” Nieder said, questioning whether Crestwood would be Sweeney’s “first interest” if he was “working for someone else, some other city.”
Sweeney said, “I suppose I’m confused by that comment in that I suppose we all have jobs and loyalties. I also happen to be Catholic. I don’t think that that causes a conflict of interest.”
Nieder interjected, “We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about what you’re being paid for — I mean working for another city. Everybody that comes here could have a possibility of wanting to do business in another city, or you could defray them from doing business in our city ’cause you might possibly want them to do business in another city …”
Sweeney said, “… I will tell you that is so far from my thought process that I didn’t even think of that. It would be a breach of my fiduciary obligation if I did that, and if I felt that I had a conflict with some other applicant, I would recuse myself as I would expect everyone to do.
“And actually, I think I take offense at the notion that I’m somehow going to steer business from one place to another away from Crestwood. Honestly, Mr. Nieder, I don’t — I guess my mind doesn’t work that way …”
This is the Bob Sweeney that Arnold residents are familiar with, taking high umbrage if anyone questions him and throwing out non-sequitur arguments to defend himself.
As for the conflict of interest, I agree that it exists, but I would be more concerned if I was Arnold or Byrnes Mill. I would expect Sweeney to be more loyal to the city he lives in, versus the cities he works for. If he’s going to steer business, I would think it would be to Crestwood.
Out of Order
Later at the same meeting, a Crestwood resident (who also expressed conflict-of-interest concerns) spoke during a public hearing on whether to allow a gas station to operate around-the-clock. He also said things Sweeney didn’t like. Read all of this; it is golden (and there’s more on the Call website):
Sweeney said, “… Mr. Miller, Mr. Miller, I don’t mean to interrupt you, but …”
Miller replied, “You are interrupting me.”
Sweeney said, “Well, then I do mean to interrupt you.”
Miller said, “Do you have any rules for one minute or two minutes or three minutes?”
Sweeney and Miller then talked at the same time, with Miller finally saying, “… I just don’t like interruptions. I’m a taxpayer …”
“And so am I, Mr. Miller, and so are all the folks here,” Sweeney said. “And so we all have equal standing with you, and we are here, Mr. Miller, on this applicant’s request for 24-hour service. His use has already been approved. You’re a day late and a dollar short to complain about that. So if you have any comments about his request for 24-hour service, please have them. Otherwise, I will rule you out …”
Miller said, “I’m very much against 24-hour …”
Before Miller could finish, Sweeney began pounding his gavel and Nieder said, “Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. Back up. This is a taxpayer that’s talking to you, my friend.”
Sweeney said, “I’m a taxpayer, too, Mr. Nieder.”
Nieder said, “This is a citizen …”
Sweeney interjected, “This is a citizen who is out of order.”
Nieder said, “Back off of him.”
Sweeney said, “You back off.”
Nieder said, “No, I will not. He has a right …”
Sweeney interjected, “You back off.”
Nieder continued, “He has a right to say what he wants to say. Ease up on him.”
Sweeney then asked Gillam “to please get the Police Department because I’m going to have Mr. Nieder …”
Nieder said, “Well, go ahead and get the Police Department because this man has a right to say what he wants to say.”
Sweeney said, “… He has a right to speak on the topic that we’re here for. I’m correcting him on the topic that we’re here (for) …”
Nieder interjected, “… But there’s no reason to throw a hammer on him or anything else like that. My goodness, he’s not hollering at you or anything of that sort.”
Sweeney said, “He was hollering, Mr. Nieder.”
Nieder said, “He is not hollering.”
Sweeney said, “Mr. Nieder, you’re out of order.”
Miller said, “Can I continue, please?”
Sweeney said, “No.”
So in a very short amount of time, Sweeney resorts not only to banging the gavel and using the “nuh-uh, you are!” technique, but also to threatening Nieder with removal by the police. It is beyond obvious that Sweeney does not have the temperament to chair a public board. He is, frankly, an ass. I bet judges just love him (or maybe he does municipal law so he can avoid them). While I’m sure he’s used to compliant/gullible elected officials and employees in the government entities he serves doing his bidding due to his supposed knowledge of the law, or because they’re on his side, he needs to learn to take criticism and be challenged if he wants to be on a board. If he has to bang his gavel and threaten to call the cops at his very first meeting as official chairman (he was acting chairman at the Dec. 3 meeting), what else is in store for Crestwood?
If you would like to listen to these exchanges, the audio can be found here. The conflict of interest discussion starts at about the 3:00 mark, and the exchange about the gas station starts at about 21:00.
Now a Psychologist?
To make matters worse, Sweeney had some choice words to share in an e-mail sent that same night to Crestwood Mayor Gregg Roby, who appears to be the latest in a long line of Sweeney cronies. The Call acquired the e-mail:
“… I explained to Mr. Nieder that my mind just doesn’t work that way,” Sweeney wrote. “Apparently, Mr. Nieder believes that I will breach my fiduciary obligation and steer business away from Crestwood for my personal or professional gain. That is, quite crazy; but, it is also defamatory. Anyway, his friend Mr. Miller agreed, somehow based on the Ferguson muni court problems.”
As for Miller, Sweeney wrote, “Mr. Miller did not take kindly to my suggestion that his comments were not on point. It was my opinion that his behavior was inappropriate and that he was out of order. It was further my opinion that he was refusing to respond to the request of the chair. I gaveled him out of order, which in turn caused Mr. Nieder some consternation.
“The bottom line is that I informed both of them that if their disruption continued I would have them removed. I’m sure Mr. Nieder is not happy. I suspect Mr. Miller has never been happy in his life — I am not licensed to practice psychology, but I do have a quarter century of experience dealing with really crabby, really irrational folks; and, I think he’s one.”
Sweeney also offered to resign “if my presence is a problem.”
We know Sweeney has contempt for those that are not his cronies, and here he spells it out in black and white. Perhaps Sweeney opponents in other entities should submit Sunshine requests for Sweeney’s e-mails, to see what he says about them. He should be forced to resign for these comments. Mayor Roby is not concerned by these comments, though, and in fact agrees with Sweeney:
“After listening to the audio, I contacted the secretary of the board who stated she summoned the police as a result of the disturbance being created by Mr. Miller and Mr. Nieder,” Roby wrote. “As mayor, and a citizen of this city, I am embarrassed that anyone should have to subject themselves to the type of disrespectful conduct and unprofessionalism I heard on the audio … I believe Mr. Sweeney, the new board chair, handled the situation with calm and professionalism …”
He also wrote, “In addition, Mr. Nieder has no respect for parliamentary procedure as is evident from his threatening outburst when Mr. Sweeney chose to use the gavel to restore order. As mayor, I have seen enough. I am recommending that each of you review the attached email and the website audio and make up your own mind as to whether Mr. Nieder should be removed for cause
…”Roby previously sought unsuccessfully to remove
Nieder from the commission.
Reading Roby’s analysis of the events at the meeting is like listening to Jeff Roorda discuss cases of police misconduct – one has to untether oneself entirely from reality in order to accept what he is saying as in any way legitimate. Sweeney was professional!?!? Threatening to sic the police on a fellow board member? Now, undoubtedly the Arnold police would have complied with such a request, since Arnold police chief Robert Shockey is a Sweeney crony and Sweeney’s brother is an Arnold cop, but it would have been interesting to see if Crestwood’s police would have complied with this outrageous request.
While the Arnold-Imperial Leader has yet to realize that Sweeney is a huckster (their coverage of Arnold ballotgate was abysmal), the Oakville Call has quickly figured Sweeney out. In an editorial, the paper’s executive editor called on Sweeney to apologize and for Roby to accept his offer of resignation.
In gaveling down Miller, Sweeney contended the resident was out of order. We believe the opposite is true.
Sweeney was out of order and created the disruption, as Miller was attempting to address the CUP request. Nieder defended Miller’s right to speak — after all, it was a public hearing — but Sweeney didn’t want to hear it, saying he was going to summon the Police Department.
Sweeney also didn’t like the fact that Nieder questioned whether he has a conflict. Ironically, Sweeney believes Nieder owes him an apology.
We believe Sweeney owes Nieder, Miller and Crestwood citizens an apology for his appalling behavior. In fact, Roby should accept Sweeney’s offer to resign. But that’s unlikely to happen, given Roby’s defense of Sweeney in an email to aldermen.
Citizens once were treated with respect in Crestwood. Just because Sweeney doesn’t want to hear what citizens have to say doesn’t give him the right to abuse them.
Amen! How refreshing to see a newspaper take Sweeney to task. I wish we could experience that in Jefferson County.
Sweeney was probably thinking that, since the Arnold regime he is a part of was able to publicly tarnish their biggest critic, Doris Borgelt, through bogus lawsuits, unfavorable coverage in the Leader, and election stunts, that he can easily dismiss any critics in Crestwood. I will grant that Miller seems to be a cantankerous gadfly and Nieder seems to be a bit brusque, but that does not excuse Sweeney’s behavior in any way.
The next Crestwood P&Z meeting is this Wednesday, June 3, at 7 pm. It might be an interesting meeting. Crestwood residents would be advised to pay close attention to this character.
If you would like to tell the Crestwood mayor how you feel, e-mail him here or go to his Facebook page.