Pevely mayor Stephanie Haas filed a lawsuit against the city, shortly after being elected, over her firing as city clerk in late 2014. Well, that lawsuit has been settled for
$80,000 $85,000, which is a pretty good sum for this type of suit. The Arnold lawsuits of the past few years have generally settled in the $50,000 range, and a recent suit in Byrnes Mill went for only $35,000. Of course, in cases like this, when the plaintiff is buddies with the board/council, it is easier to get a good settlement. In another example, Arnold police chief Bob Shockey just got $70,000 from Arnold over a bogus lawsuit.
But there is something fishy going on in the Pevely case. It may just be the latest in a long series of ignorance-based Sunshine Law violations, but I’m not sure. I asked the city what the roll call vote was when the board of aldermen approved this settlement, assuming that there is no way this suit can be settled without board approval. I mean, who else has the power to act on behalf of the city? Not the mayor, who is the plaintiff in the suit. Plus, part of the settlement was that the board has to pass a motion requiring city officials to take Missouri Municipal League training. How could that be forced onto the board without its agreement?
But the city tells me there was no vote! Actually, all the city would say to me was “we have no record of a vote.” This leads me to believe that they think the board vote falls under the confidentiality agreement of the settlement, and that they can’t share it (which would be a complete violation of the Sunshine Law apparent to any layperson). They would neither confirm nor deny to me that a vote took place. But city administrator Dickie Brown did say to me, when I protested, “come back with a court order” as if there was something to uncover.
I sent a Sunshine complaint to the state attorney general, and apparently Pevely told them that there was no vote. And as it is not the job of the Sunshine people to make sure Pevely settles lawsuits in a lawful manner, there was not much they could do for me.
The reason I am interested in the roll call vote is that there is a chance it came out 4-2, given the way votes often go in Pevely. Keep in mind that this settlement took place 6 weeks or so after Dave Bewig was impeached. Had he still been on the board, the settlement vote could have come out 3-3, which would have meant no settlement. Was the impeachment a necessary move to allow the sweet settlement to take place? I don’t allege that that is why it took place, only that the timing is very fishy, and Pevely is not giving us answers.
Unfortunately, it seems that it might take a lawyer to get to the bottom of this, and I have no money for that. Someday I need to start a foundation that will help citizens sue their municipal governments when they are not following the law, which happens quite often, due to the proliferation of clueless or corrupt officials and third-rate city attorneys.
Of course, if anyone wants to send me some inside information on this, I welcome it at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymity is guaranteed.