Doors Thrown Open on Arnold Backroom Deals in Campaign Spat

25 Jan

If corruption in Arnold becomes so bad that the Leader is forced to write about it, you know it’s serious stuff.

Years of good old boy, backscratching, crony politics broke wide open today as the wary detente of Mayor Ron Counts and Councilman Phil Amato exploded publicly. As the filing deadline for April’s mayoral election approached, Counts filed complaints with the state Attorney General and the Missouri Ethics Commission over a deal that Amato supposedly offered him, which would have kept Amato out of the mayor’s race. This is what Amato wanted, according to Counts and as reported in the Leader:

  • Choose a certain person as the next Public Works director, thus eschewing an open, fair, hiring process oriented towards picking the best candidate and instead elevating a probable Amato crony.
  • Choose a certain person as the next Parks and Rec director, thus eschewing an open, fair, hiring process oriented towards picking the best candidate and instead elevating a probable Amato crony.
  • Force Bob Shockey out as police chief.
  • Give Amato an “unspecified benefit.”

Amato does not deny the first two, says that he merely wants to know when Shockey will finally leave, and claims that the benefit is “maybe a dinner.” I fully endorse the third item, and I suspect the fourth is a special deal for a Amato developer pal or something a bit more substantial than a meal at Applebee’s.

I fully suspect that, had Amato and Counts been able to come to an agreement (perhaps by dropping item 3), this deal would have been signed, sealed, and delivered, and Amato would have happily gone back to the council. Instead, here we are.

Smoking Gun Not a Secret

Amato also released what he claimed was a “smoking gun” that would have stayed secret had Counts accepted the deal. Amato said it was the city that ordered Ameren to shut off the electricity to flood-threatened areas of Arnold last December during the historic Meramec River flooding. This decision led to many flooded basements, as homeowners could no longer operate their sump pumps.

Counts denies this, and states that it was a consensus decision. I wrote about this back in February. Here is the statement I got from Ameren on this issue:

ameren-flood-response-feb-16

I think in the end, it had to be the city that made the order, while Ameren was free to advise. The real question, as I wrote in the article linked above, was which homes to shut off. It was clear that Arnold selected way too many homes to cut power to, 530 of them, when in the end only about 150 homes saw major damage. From statements, it appears that Arnold was working off of flood estimates that were two feet too high and not in line with what anybody was actually forecasting in the days before the flood. This would explain why the number of homes which had power shut off was so excessive. It was Counts and Shockey that were spouting the incorrect flood forecasts.

On an interesting flood note, residents complained that their manholes were not pumped out, and this contributed to the backups. The city said, hey, it’s not our sewer system, we sold it to Missouri American Water. The city heavily campaigned for this sale (while Amato voted against it as a city councilman) and tacked on an illegal tax. The city government got a bunch of money, and the residents got sewage-filled basements.

Shockey and Sweeney

Where there is corruption in Arnold, Shockey and city attorney Bob Sweeney cannot be far behind. It was Shockey who arranged to pay his son-in-law to attend police academy, steered city purchases to his personal businesses, interfered in the 2013 mayoral election on behalf of Counts with a frivolous, baseless discrimination lawsuit, and extracted a $70,000 payout from the city via that lawsuit. And here we are again with Shockey weighing in on the mayoral election on behalf of Counts.

Sweeney has interfered in Arnold elections by selectively booting candidates from the ballot based on their ideology, been grossly overpaid for years by running up billable hours, shilled for red light camera company American Traffic Solutions, and given bad legal advice.

Amato states that Counts doesn’t really do much, and that Shockey and Sweeney run the city. It has been true over the years that certain city officials won’t do much without consulting Sweeney, and that Shockey is pulling a lot of strings to advance his own interests. Here are their responses to Amato in the Leader:

sweeney shockey amato.png

Sad to hear that Shockey won’t retire, but if you face no accountability, why not hang around and suck up a paycheck? And I suspect Amato’s “vendetta” is just that he finally got sick of Shockey’s mooching off of the city.

It is clear that Sweeney and Shockey like the status quo in Arnold, and will be fighting to maintain it in this campaign. It will be interesting to monitor the campaign contributions that the two candidates receive.

Who to Back?

On one hand, I think good people in Arnold should back the third candidate for mayor, William Denman, who I know nothing about, only to get rid of Counts and Amato, who is running for mayor instead of for re-election to the council. But, given that Amato seems ready to get rid of Shockey and Sweeney, perhaps we should support him. Achieving those two goals alone would be enough to Make Arnold Great Again.

More importantly, given the sheer number of figurative bodies that are buried in Arnold City Hall, here’s hoping that the campaign stays nasty, and that Amato and Counts reveal some more secrets about Arnold city operations between now and April 4.

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12 Responses to “Doors Thrown Open on Arnold Backroom Deals in Campaign Spat”

  1. wrongonred January 25, 2017 at 9:59 pm #

    Bill Denman was always listed as the Treasurer of the CFABA which Counts started.

    Liked by 1 person

    • FactCheck January 26, 2017 at 2:11 am #

      Counts really? You should check your facts.

      Bill Denman was the treasurer from 2002 through 2008. Here are the candidates that the CFABA supported and opposed during those years.
      2002 Support 2002 Oppose
      Ronald Jerger
      Del Williams David Owens & David Venable
      Joyce Deckman Geri Hartman
      Al Ems Phillip Roberts

      2003 Support 2003 Oppose
      Mike Bonnot
      Ralph Sippel Jim Edwards
      Phil Amato
      Butch Cooley
      Mark Powell

      2004 Support
      Jim Weiss
      Al Ems
      Joyce Deckman

      2008 Support
      Brian Waldrop

      In 2009 the treasurer changed to J. Elders.
      2009 Support 2009 Oppose
      Phil Amato – Mayor
      Randy Crisler
      Bill Moritz
      Vern Sullivan
      Butch Cooley

      In 2010 the treasurer changed to Kathleen Rhymer.
      2010 Support 2010 Oppose
      Christine Lang Matt Hay
      Jim Edwards Jerel Poor
      Paul Freese Karl Shoenbeck
      Ken Moss

      That sure doesn’t sound like Counts to me, at least not until maybe 2010, but there was very little activity after that until the pac closed in 2013.

      Like

      • wrongonred January 26, 2017 at 6:44 am #

        Counts was not an original ‘founding member” of CFABA when it was initially conceived? Funny, because he had told me he was. I never meant to imply that he was Treasurer or was endorsed by them.

        Like

      • wrongonred January 26, 2017 at 6:58 am #

        I will give you “always” was inartful, and should have said “previously” as he was not the only one to serve in that role, since we all know folks in that role also included Bob Sweeney’s mother, Kathleen Rhymer, whose signature has an uncanny resemblance to his.

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  2. Fool Town Phil January 26, 2017 at 8:10 am #

    You are missing a few key key components.

    Denman is a stooge for the Citizens for a Better Arnold. He is wheeled out when CBA needs a public face and was the labeled secretary in the past.

    Amato is a snake and is using all the tools at his disposal to unsurp Counts.

    I have no faith in any of them, but when folks start lining up with Amato you need to take a hard look at the game

    Like

    • JC Penknife January 26, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

      Do you think Denman is a stalking horse candidate? Who is he intended to take votes away from?

      This is definitely a case of “least of three evils,” but if one candidate might get rid of Sweeney and Shockey, I will side with him.

      Like

      • Anonymous January 26, 2017 at 10:52 pm #

        No matter who wins RSMO 106.273.1 still applies.

        Like

      • JC Penknife January 27, 2017 at 6:53 pm #

        Yeah, it is unfortunately harder to fire police chiefs now, but I still think he could be fired under the current law, specifically under items (d) Acts in a manner for the sole purpose of furthering his or her self-interest, and (e) Has been found to have violated any law, statute, or ordinance which constitutes a felony (for multiple offenses of letting the city make purchases from his personal businesses).

        Like

  3. Anonymous February 1, 2017 at 10:52 am #

    You realize that Shockey filed that suite the day after that law took affect? I think “corruption” is the middle name of all 4 of them. Counts, Sweeney, Shockey and Amato. So sad for Arnold residents. But then again, they’re the fools that keep these snakes in office!

    Like

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  1. Sweeney Screws Up Again | Jefferson County Penknife - March 27, 2017

    […] Amato, who correctly stated in January that Sweeney and police chief Robert Shockey are the ones running the city. Amato is the latest in a line of Arnold council members, including Ken Moss, Cricky Lang, and […]

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