Byrnes Mill Corruption Focus Shifts

14 Jul

The Byrnes Mill police department is in the news again. I chronicled its previous problems here. While past allegations focused solely on the PD, this time a lawsuit by the (most recently) fired chief alleges that it is the city that is pulling the corrupt strings, says the Post-Dispatch:

A former police chief says he lost his job because he reported “fixed” traffic tickets and falsified court documents to a prosecutor and elected officials, and alleges he was ordered to enforce ticket quotas.

The former chief, Michael Smith, made the claims in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday against the city, Mayor Susan Gibson and City Administrator Larry Perney.

Here is the full lawsuit. The Post-Dispatch continues:

Smith claims Perney ordered him not to conduct sobriety or safety checkpoints, not to ticket certain unidentified people and to make sure his officers issued “a minimum traffic ticket quota of 250 to 270 traffic tickets per month,” the suit says.

Hopefully, as this suit progresses, the identities of these “unidentified people” who were not to be ticketed are revealed. That would be juicy. The suit also alleges that the police were ordered to ignore drug crimes.

Blowing the Whistle

Smith says he reported the alleged wrongdoing to several people, including [city attorney Bob] Sweeney, Alderwoman Sharon Ippolito and Alderman Robert Prado, and to the Jefferson County prosecutor’s office.

Now, reporting corruption to Bob Sweeney is like a mid-level North Korean bureaucrat reporting government impropriety to Kim Jong-Un: The problem won’t get addressed, and the person reporting it will be punished. Over the course of about two weeks, Smith, who was merely an interim chief, says he reported his concerns, in chronological order, to Prado, Perney, Ippolito, and Gibson, with no apparent result. Five days after contacting the mayor, Smith talked to Sweeney. That very day, he was suspended with pay and told to resign. From the suit:

On or about March 10, 2014, at the office of City Attorney Bob Sweeney, Mayor Susan Gibson informed Plaintiff that it was improper for him to investigate Defendant City Administrator Perney or to speak with Board Members Prado and Ippolito. Defendant Mayor informed Plaintiff that he was suspended with pay until further notice and that she would accept his letter of resignation.

Smith declined. Gibson and Perney then told city police officers that they could not contact their own chief. They really seem to be opposed to communication at Byrnes Mill city hall. The next day, the board fired Smith. The mayor then took to the Leader newspaper to smear Smith. This is similar to what the city of Arnold did to both former city councilman Ken Moss and city council candidate Shaun Missey when it went after them. Such media attacks must be part of the Bob Sweeney playbook. Note that both Moss and Missey won settlements in the $50,000 range from Arnold as a result of the city’s antics.

Also in the Sweeney playbook is displays of bluster:

City Attorney Bob Sweeney said Friday that he was “confident the allegations will not be proven and the process will vindicate the defendants.”

Despite his assurances, I expect that Smith will walk away with a settlement, too, after which Sweeney will explain that the settlement is not an admission of guilt, and that he wanted to fight in court, but the city’s insurance company ordered the settlement.

City administrator Perney talks to KMOV 4’s Russell Kinsaul in this report. Perney laughably says “there’s no corruption, and that the city has “a great government,” which will also inspire chuckles. In the report, Kinsaul speculates that this suit will damage the city’s reputation, but that is incorrect, because the city’s reputation can’t get any worse.

Who’s The Boss?

What is also remarkable about this suit, if true, is the extent to which the city, specifically Perney, controls the police department. Police chiefs normally control their departments, so to have the city administrator making all these decisions, and the chief allowing it, is noteworthy. The question of city control of the police is highlighted as well in this note in the minutes of the June 4 board meeting (page 4):

Mayor Gibson made the Board aware that she and Administrator Perney are conducting monthly meetings with all Officers in the Police Department.

Is current chief Dougherty OK with this? It seems like an infringement on his territory to me. What is taking place in these meetings?

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4 Responses to “Byrnes Mill Corruption Focus Shifts”

  1. wrongonred July 14, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    “Note that both Moss and Sweeney won settlements in the $50,000 range from Arnold as a result of the city’s antics.”

    ’86 Sweeney, Sub Missey

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  2. shortstop July 14, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    If Brynes Mill is a 4th class city than the mayor is considered the Chief Law Enforcement officer. However, it is always a bad idea for any politico to side step (especially when they have no LE experience) the appointed Chief and speak to the officers behind closed doors. If it looks like a cover up and acts like a cover up…..its a cover up. (Lets get our stories straight in case your subpoenaed?)

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  3. Anonymous December 16, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    IF YOU LIVE IN BYRNES MILL THEN GO TO THE MEETINGS; IF YOU DONT THEN PLEASE KNOW THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN GOSSIPING ABOUT THE CITY OF BYRNES MILL.

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