In a fast reversal of fortunes, Pevely city administrator Terry Thomas was reinstated by the board of aldermen by a 4-1 vote. Marlin Hahn changed his vote to give the pro-Thomas side a majority. Perhaps knowing what was coming, Mayor John Knobloch was absent from the meeting (purportedly for health reasons). Alderwoman Deb Hurley was also absent.
Hahn and alderwoman Ilda Kennon were questioned at the meeting by resident Erin Kasten about their no votes. Citing the closed session before the meeting, they would not give specifics, but both said their votes were performance related. Hahn’s yes vote seemed a bit grudging, as if it was in response to public pressure.
Hahn said he changed his vote because the city needed to move forward.
“It’s childish the way people are doing,” he said. “Terry needs to be back where he belongs.”
Hahn recommended the board keep a closer eye on city spending and to do an evaluation of the city administrator’s performance, perhaps every six months.
“We need to keep track, to make sure he’s doing what we want him to do,” Hahn said.
I’m not sure who the “childish” people are he refers to. Hahn and Kennon mentioned their dislike for the “media antics” that occurred since the negative vote on Thomas’ contract, presumably referring to the campaign by Pevely 20/20 to reverse the vote. Kennon and alderman Russ Shackelford spoke against “bullying” that occurred. I think these statements are out of line. Aldermen have to answer to the residents they represent. If a decision is made that a vocal group doesn’t like, whether the group represent a majority or not, the alderman have to accept the response. That doesn’t mean they have to change their vote, if they are willing to accept the political consequences. But they should explain their reasoning. It is part of being an elected official.
Some insight into the state of city affairs in the last two weeks was provided at the meeting. It has been city clerk Steph Haas, not the mayor, who was carrying out those administrator duties that were not being left unfulfilled. And Thomas was still receiving a check under his previous role as a police officer. According to the Leader:
Despite the Dec. 16 vote, Thomas has continued to show up for work. He said he has been “stocking shelves,” and while not taking any official action, had been organizing and prioritizing necessary tasks for other staff to complete as the year’s end approached.
The crowd at the meeting, which filled most of the seats and some of the standing room, was largely pro-Thomas, and reportedly included many city employees (there were also five cops in the back of the room). They cheered several times during the proceedings, to the consternation of alderman Steve Markus, who presided over the meeting in the mayor’s absence while decked out in a suit. No residents spoke at the meeting, besides Kasten. Here’s a crowd shot: