The root of the Ken Moss-Susie Boone saga, some suggested, was a desire to replace Moss on the Arnold City Council with someone more, ahem, agreeable to the schemes of the powers that be. Before this all became public, Moss was pressed by Mayor Ron Counts to resign. This railroading was resisted, and Moss remains on the council.
Now, however, the city (specifically clerk Diane Waller, she of the bogus accusation against councilwoman Sandra Kownacki) has apparently struck again to affect the makeup of the council, removing challengers Shaun Missey (Ward 1) and, so I am hearing, Rodney Mullins (Ward 3) for non-payment of personal property taxes. Here is the letter from the city informing Missey of the city’s action:
Here is the statute Waller specifically cites, RSMo 115.342. It states, in part (emphasis mine):
3. Upon receipt of a complaint alleging a delinquency of the candidate in the
filing or payment of any state income taxes, personal property taxes, real
property taxes on the place of residence, as stated on the declaration of
candidacy, …, the department of revenue shall investigate such potential
candidate to verify the claim contained in the complaint. If the department
of revenue finds a positive affirmation to be false, the department shall
contact the secretary of state, or the election official who accepted such
candidate’s declaration of candidacy, and the potential candidate. The department
shall notify the candidate of the outstanding tax owed and give the candidate thirty
days to remit any such outstanding taxes owed which are not the subject of dispute
between the department and the candidate. If the candidate fails to remit such amounts
in full within thirty days, the candidate shall be disqualified from participating
in the current election and barred from refiling for an entire election cycle
even if the individual pays all of the outstanding taxes that were the subject
of the complaint.
This would suggest that it is the state Department of Revenue that pursues such cases, upon receipt of a complaint, and the candidate gets a chance to fix the problem. But here we have Waller playing judge, jury, and executioner. This is interesting, given some recent history.
Current councilman Bill Moritz was elected to terms on the council in April of 2009 and 2011. In both 2008 and 2010, he was delinquent on his personal property taxes for those years. Here is proof from 2008, when Moritz paid his taxes almost four months late:
Former councilman Randy Crisler also ran, and was delinquent, in 2011.
County councilman Bob Boyer pressed the issue of the delinquencies of Crisler and Moritz in 2011. In a borrowed legal opinion, Arnold City Attorney Bob Sweeney rejected Boyer’s concerns, saying “Section 115.342 does not apply to municipal elections.” He also said that “Section 115.352 imposes NO duty on municipal clerks to determine the tax delinquency status of candidates.” [Note: a section by this number is not currently on the books; I think he means 115.342. ] However, we now see the city clerk determining the delinquency status of candidates AND applying this law to a municipal election.
What has changed in the past two years? Can this be interpreted in any other way than a blatant attempt to keep council candidates off the ballot based on their policy preferences? This is precisely how elections are run in places like Venezuela. Of course, people should pay their taxes (in Missey’s case, he has no debt, the question is of proper declaration of vehicles). And the legal opinion Sweeney relies upon seems to be solid (the fact that another attorney, not him, wrote it increases my confidence). But if that opinion was valid in 2011, why is it no longer guiding Arnold’s actions? Can Sweeney cite legislative changes since then that explain the city’s 180 on this? If not, then Waller needs to be fired and the Attorney General needs to step in (once again).