Pevely Alderman Makes Appalling Comment in Defense of Cop-Threatening Coulson

10 Nov

On November 4, the Pevely Board of Aldermen held its first meeting since it was revealed here that alderman Larry Coulson allegedly threatened four city police officers, including the acting chief, with “consequences” earlier this year if they completed a police report concerning allegations against him.  Coulson also threatened to block the acting chief from getting the chief job and pressed him to illegally search the vehicle of Coulson’s political opponent.

The only mention of this explosive information at the meeting was a cryptic comment by alderman William Brooks at the very end. If you didn’t know about the aforementioned reports, you would have had no idea what Brooks was talking about, because he refused to directly state what happened, presumably to protect Coulson from further exposure. Here is the beginning part of his statement (you can watch it here, starting at the 22:59 mark). Let me note that he is apparently addressing these comments to Alderwoman Linda Hahn, who filed the original Sunshine request that indirectly brought Coulson’s threats to light.

I’m a little disheartened about the latest information that was misrepresented in a
sunshine request. As chairman of the police board, it would have prudent to at least come to me first about these kind of matters before we approach them and you would have gotten some different insights. So as you know I believe in a lot of transparency, especially on this board, so if you would have come to me it would have been very very nice. However, there was never a coverup in any of this, it needs to be mentioned that this was a citizen vs. a police matter, not an alderman vs. a police matter. And finally, to include the police chief in this matter is irresponsible behavior on such reporting in that he wasn’t even here at the time of this concern.

William-Brooks-202x300

Pevely alderman William Brooks

There are several things to unpack there, but let’s focus on the line in bold. That is an amazingly audacious and asinine statement and a transparent attempt to cover Coulson’s ass. We are supposed to believe that a city alderman can just take off his alderman hat and claim to be a regular citizen whenever it is convenient for him? I don’t think so. Here’s why:

  • Almost all of the activity described in the complaints by police against Coulson happened at city hall, including the uncorroborated police report by his wife that he supported, the eviction stunt against Dave Bewig he participated in, and the interviews between Coulson and the police. The only exception is, we don’t know where Coulson was when he called the acting police chief to berate and threaten him for an hour and forty-five minutes.
  • All of the activity described took place between Coulson and city of Pevely employees. He wasn’t interacting with a gas station attendant at On the Run. In no way can Coulson take off his alderman hat in such situations.
  • Coulson threatened the police with “consequences” if they defied him. What possible consequences could a regular citizen bring down upon police officers? Virtually none. But an alderman who was head of the city police board and a crony with the mayor could definitely arrange for some consequences.
  • What would happen, do you think, if a regular citizen threatened the police with consequences and attempted to forestall a police investigation? That citizen would be laughed at at the very least, if not arrested and charged with interfering with police.
  • Coulson told the acting chief that he would not allow him to become police chief. But a regular citizen does not have the power to impact city hiring processes.

 

Some Analogies

Here are some other incidents that have happened recently that I think are relevant:

-Alderman Dave Bewig was impeached by the Pevely board in 2015 over alleged harassment. Instead of fighting the allegations, what if Bewig had just said “I was acting as a citizen, not an alderman?” Would the board have accepted that explanation?

-Former Pevely police chief Tony Moutray resigned in March (as part of a separation agreement) after being accused of domestic abuse against his wife. Now, Moutray was actually acting as a private citizen, not a chief, when he did that, but he still had to go. Would Brooks have given him a pass in that case?

-Three Pevely cops, including Moutray, were sued for excessive force for a beating that allegedly occurred during a 2016 traffic stop, and the city settled for $300,000. Can those officers claim the beating was a citizen-citizen interaction, and not a police-citizen interaction? Would Brooks buy that?

 

Some Other Points

Allow me to address a few other things Brooks said:

  • I do not agree that he believes in transparency, and I do believe there was a coverup.
  • The “different insights” Brooks would have offered to Hahn would probably have been more BS to cover Coulson’s ass and suppress the story.
  • It is appropriate to involve the current chief, Alan Eickhoff, in all this (I don’t know how he was brought in) because there is an alderman that has threatened city officers and gotten away with it (so far). The chief needs to be aware of the treatment his department might get from the elected leadership of the city so he is prepared to protect his officers and go to bat for them. This seems like another example of Brooks not liking transparency and wanting to keep the chief in the dark about these concerning allegations.
  • Brooks went on to introduce a “Sunshine Request Audit” program, which will basically involve the board being informed of who is making requests for what information and what the requests costs the city in man hours. Since this idea is coming on the heels of a Sunshine request that Brooks is not happy about, one must be skeptical of his motives. It appears that the board is trying to stick its nose into the Sunshine process, potentially to intimidate requestors and attempt to suppress information. Since the Sunshine process for making and fulfilling information requests to governments is laid out in state law, it seems like a bad idea for the board to interfere in this process. The city has gotten in enough trouble in the last few years, and I suspect more is coming on several fronts.

Pevely Alderman Threatens Cops, Acting Chief That Were Investigating Him

24 Oct

Three Pevely police officers, including the acting chief at the time, allege that alderman Larry Coulson threatened them and a fourth officer with “consequences” in May of this year if they wrote a police report concerning allegations of harassment made against Coulson by former alderman David Bewig, according to memos written by the officers. Given Coulson’s position on the board of aldermen, and as the then-head of the city police board, these consequences presumably related to the continuing employment of the officers with the city if they did not act as Coulson wanted them to do against his political opponent.

The acting chief, Larry Miller, stated that Coulson (himself a former airport cop) targeted him and created “a hostile work environment for me and my officers when anything involves him.” Miller also alleges that Coulson improperly interfered in the hiring process for the new Pevely police chief, a job Miller applied for. In July, the city hired Alan Eickhoff to be the new chief. Miller stated that Coulson was using his positions with the city to influence him and the department, calling this “very unethical behavior.” Coulson also wanted Miller to arrest and handcuff Bewig and search his car in order to bust him for drug dealing. Miller does not specify how Coulson expected the drugs to appear in Bewig’s car.

Larry-Coulson-231x300

Pevely alderman Larry Coulson

You may recall that I wrote back in May about a dubious claim from Coulson’s wife Diane that Bewig threatened her and/or Larry, and subsequently in June about a stunt that Larry Coulson participated in that resulted in Bewig being banned from board meetings. The alleged intimidation of police outlined above stems from those incidents. After the Coulsons filed a police complaint against Bewig, he countered with a harassment complaint of his own. Police were asking Coulson about the Bewig complaint when the aforementioned threats were delivered.

The Complaints

Here is a memo that Miller sent in April to Pevely mayor Steph Haas, who banned Bewig from board meetings after the aforementioned eviction stunt:

The first paragraph outlines Coulson’s desires to have Bewig arrested. The second paragraph mentions “one hour and forty five minutes of being berated” and claims that Coulson told Miller he would not allow him to become chief of police. In the final paragraph, Miller lays out the gist of what this is all about: Coulson using his position and his power to intimidate the police into doing what Coulson wanted regarding an incident involving him and his political opponent.

I don’t know at this time if or how Haas responded to this memo.

This pair of memos outlines the other officers’ versions of their interactions with Coulson. I decided to redact their names, since their specific identities are beside the point. You can see that these officers also allege berating and threats of consequences from Coulson. They also suggest Coulson doesn’t really know what he is talking about when it comes to modern policing. From the information at the end of the document, where Miller states how Coulson interfered in the hiring process for the new chief, I’m thinking Miller might even have grounds for a lawsuit, if he wanted to go that route.

In addition to this, I have the memos written by the other officers. Both of them state that Coulson threatened consequences against the officers and their entire chain of command if they completed a police report about Bewig’s complaint, regardless of what the complaint actually even said.

The police report was, however, completed. No charges were brought against Bewig or the Coulsons by the Jefferson County prosecutor. It appears that all of the officers involved are still employed by Pevely; as I mentioned above, Miller did not get the chief job, but remains with the force.

Impeachment?

Recall that in 2015, Haas led the charge to impeach Bewig from the board of aldermen. The charges, in summary, were “bullying behavior and interference with city business.” That description matches closely what Coulson is accused of. Will Haas initiate impeachment proceedings against Coulson? It seems unlikely, since she has known about this behavior since April but has apparently done nothing about it.

Also note this city ordinance:

No member of the Board of Aldermen shall directly interfere with the duties of the City Administrator or any department under his/her supervision, unless such member shall have been authorized to take such action by the Board of Aldermen.

McCane Calls Out DeSoto Council, But Falls Short

6 Oct

According to the September 26 Leader, former DeSoto mayor Rich McCane got up at the Sept. 16 council meeting to excoriate the council, saying that a better council could be found from five people on stools at the bar. While this is no doubt true, McCane’s criticisms did not go far enough.

McCane stated that he received abuse and threats during the latter part of his eight years on the council, as well as after he resigned. He specifically mentioned some anonymous letters he received.

McCane apparently did not mention the assault allegation that was leveled against him by a city employee one week before he resigned. That case ended up with no charges filed. Does McCane consider this as part of the harassment against him?

Give Us Details

Where McCane failed is that, according to the Leader, “he made no specific allegations of wrongdoing against the council.”  He worked with all of the people that are currently on the city council. He has to have a number of examples of them engaging in questionable behavior and/or stupidity. Why not lay it all out there? Otherwise, what will this rant accomplish? The city council needs to be turned over, but if McCane is only going to be vague, he isn’t going to advance that goal.

And what about these threatening letters? Did he go to the police with them? (It’d be best to go outside the city PD for this.) There are ways to figure out who mailed something. Go after these people.

McCane’s act of resignation was also a big win for his detractors, and was probably exactly what they wanted. The bad actors in all levels of politics want the honest people out of the way, so they can pursue their selfish schemes. If you quit, they win.

Biggest Loser

By many accounts, the biggest loser on the council is Larry Sanders. I have heard several examples of him trying to intimidate or fire people who get in his way. The voters apparently came to recognize this, booting him off the council in 2018. However, the council, in its infinite lack of wisdom, appointed him to fill the vacancy after McCane resigned, citing his experience in city government. Well, Brett Cecil has experience being a relief pitcher, but that doesn’t mean the Cardinals should put him on the mound. Sanders then won another term in April 2019 when three people ran against him and split the opposition vote.

Sanders showed his ignorance in August when he spoke out against police chief Jeff McCreary’s request for a police personnel board. According to the September 12 Leader, Sanders said at the August 19 council meeting that “there are a lot of things in the Police Department that nobody needs to know” and claimed that serious police disciplinary matters never came up when he was mayor.

Well, recall that in July 2018, shortly after Sanders lost his re-election race, the JeffCo Sheriff revealed that the DeSoto Police Department was in total disarray – bad leadership, huge turnover, poor training, poor facilities, poor procedures. It was to the point that the city thought about shutting down the PD (and should have done so). Maybe Sanders should have let people know what was going on in the PD when he was mayor, and maybe he should have engaged in some disciplinary actions to prevent the deterioration of the department.

If I was investigating the letters sent to McCane, Sanders would be the first person I would look at.

Not Too Late

There is still time for McCane to be more specific, and to press the issue of an incompetent council that needs to be turned over. There are two seats coming up for election in 2020 – those of Clayton Henry (the conflicted leader of the effort to keep the DeSoto PD) and Rick Lane. McCane can help find good candidates to run and use his platform to help support them, and at the same time give the public more information on what’s gone on behind the scenes and why there needs to be change on the council.

Final Note

The following was posted on Facebook in response to a statement in the Leader article:

ccds-mccane

Pevely Buys Trailer from Mayor’s Bae

27 Aug

At the July 15, 2019 board of aldermen meeting, the board approved (page 10 of the minutes) the purchase of a used 2004 trailer (approximately 24 feet long, 10,000 lb. GVWR) for $4,800. What was not mentioned at the meeting or in the board packet was that the trailer was owned by McCain Towing & Auto Body of Herculaneum, whose owner is in a live-in partner relationship with Pevely Mayor Steph Haas. The city also paid McCain over $700 for repairs to the trailer. While this arrangement may pass legal muster, it does not look good.

The only hint that something was going on during the meeting was that Haas handed over the gavel for the discussion of the purchase to her ally, board member Steve Markus. Evidently, this was an ethical fig leaf to remove herself from the act of approving the purchase of the trailer.

It should also be noted that McCain has the city contract for repairing police vehicles(page 2).

park trailer

The trailer

Convenient Price?

I found some Pevely city ordinances that shed some possible light on the particular sale price of this trailer:

  • Informal bids: The city is required to use the Informal Purchasing Procedure for purchases of items of a value between $5,000 and $10,000. This procedure calls for the collection of at least three bids on such purchases. The difference between the formal and informal procedures is that the formal one requires publishing a public request for bids.
  • Open market: The city can use the Open Market Procedure for purchases of items with a value between $1,500 and $5,000. The ordinance says  “open market purchases shall, wherever possible, be based on at least three (3) competitive bids.”

$4,800 is, of course, just under $5,000. Coincidence? The “whenever possible” language in the open market rules seems like a truck-sized loophole that was used here. I’ve seen no indication that bids were requested for the trailer.

Perhaps Technically Not a Conflict

Here is the Pevely ordinance on conflicts of interest:

“Any purchase order or contract within the purview of this Chapter in which any officer or employee of the City is financially interested, directly or indirectly, shall be void unless the Board of Aldermen waives compliance with this Section before the execution of a purchase order or contract.”

While one could have a discussion over the applicability of the word “indirectly,” since Haas doesn’t have an official ownership interest in McCain, she probably doesn’t violate the above.

In addition, the city can argue that it wasn’t the mayor who bought the trailer, it was the board. Even though the board and this mayor have a crony relationship, and we don’t know who proposed or arranged the sale, it is the board that’s ultimately responsible for buying stuff.

The city will probably argue that it doesn’t matter anyway because the trailer supposedly came at a good price. Markus said at the board meeting that someone told him the trailer was a good deal. But we kind of have to take his word at that.

Conclusion

As I stated above, this probably passes the legal tests for avoiding conflict of interest. But it doesn’t seem very ethical. At the least, the city should have been up front about this, and explained why buying this trailer was a good idea despite the questions it raises. Transparency is a good policy.

Behind the Herky Trash Re-Bid

14 Aug

Herculaneum put its trash services out for new bids in June, since the existing 5-year contract was expiring. Two companies submitted bids: Republic Services, the current trash provider, based in Phoenix, and Freedom From Waste LLC, a company out of Farmington. But the city board of aldermen, for unexplained reasons, decided to throw out the bids and start over.

The bids that the city threw out were as follows (these are monthly costs to homeowners):

trash bid table

Freedom clearly had the lower bid. So why did Herculaneum throw them out? The Leader on July 18 quoted city administrator Jim Kasten as saying that the board gave no reason for rejecting the bids. This is a cop-out, as all information the board received it got through Kasten. So he knows what’s going on, and he should be transparent about it.

City ordinances say contracts “shall be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.” The bidders give prices based on the criteria set out by the city. “Lowest responsible bidder” includes criteria set out here, but it considers such items as ability, skills, and previous performance. Basically, can the company do the job? The city gave no reason to believe Freedom can’t do the job.

Discussion of the issue at the July 15 board of aldermen meeting is summarized here, starting at the bottom of page 3. Here’s an interesting exchange:

trash disc 15 Jul.jpg

Here we see more cryptic refusal by Kasten to discuss why the bids were rejected. I have an email that city attorney Jessica Mikale sent to Kasten regarding her issues with the proposed contracts submitted by the trash companies. I assume this is the “memo” referred to above. It seems a little odd to me that they are quabbling about contracts before awarding the bid, but I digress.

I agree with what Alderman Seithel said, that the memo contains a lot of nitpicking. Here it is. I don’t see anything in there that would seem to merit throwing out the bids and starting over. It’s just a lot of “change this to that.” I don’t see anything that the companies would have even objected to changing, in my view.

New Specs

On another note, when the city reopened the bidding in July, they greatly increased the bid specifications. For the original bidding, all the city said was basically “provide trash, recycling, bulk pick-up, and yard waste collection for 1,430 city residents.” The city probably failed in its duties by being so non-specific. But the new specifications run a full page, setting out frequency of pickups and details about the contract, addressing all the contract issues the city complained about in the memo.

Bids for this latest round were due August 1. There should be a Herky board meeting on August 19, where presumably this bid question will again be on the agenda. This may seem like a minor deal, but the way it has all been handled makes one wonder if the city is putting a thumb on the scale in favor of Republic Services, the out-of-state company that has had the contract for 25 years or so, for whatever reason, or if this was just handled in a shoddy fashion. I am interested to see who wins the bid. Of course, the fact that both companies surely know what each other bid the first time throws a curveball into the whole competition.

Waller Unloads on Council Foes

28 Jul

Ken Waller moved on from the Jefferson County executive job to become county clerk in January, but he took the opportunity a few weeks back to give his thoughts on some of the county council members (all Republicans, like Waller) that he used to spar with. This was in response to a publicly-available Facebook post praising councilman Phil Hendrickson (District 3, GOP, Arnold). This is the latest salvo in the ongoing JeffCo GOP civil war.

 

Eviction Stunt at Pevely Board Meeting

27 Jun

I wrote here about an uncorroborated claim of a threat levied by Pevely alderman Larry Coulson and his wife Diane against former alderman Dave Bewig, and Diane’s subsequent, fully documented threat against Bewig. This series of events led to Bewig being banned indefinitely from board meetings, and to the Coulsons both being appointed to the Pevely Park Board (although Diane only squeaked by on a 3-2 vote by the park board).

I mentioned in that post that the way Bewig was evicted from the May 20 BoA meeting was strange. I put together some video to show you. But first, here is a crude graphic to point out the major players:

boa-labels1

Here is video #1. It does not have audio. Below I will post an annotated timeline:

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