Search results for 'sweeney'

Arnold Mayor Rewards His Ally Sweeney

18 Oct

This post has been on my back burner for quite some time, as it dates back to June, but better late than never, I say.

One of the first acts of Arnold mayor Ron Counts after he won re-election in April was to reward one of his biggest allies, city attorney Bob Sweeney, with a pay hike. Sweeney has done a lot, while zigzagging across ethical lines, to keep the Counts regime in power and to quash opposition, and I guess it was time to thank him (hmm, why not do it before the election)? On June 1, Counts asked the city council to give Sweeney a 40% pay raise, from $100/hour to $140/hour, and the pliant council unanimously agreed.

Here is how Counts justified the move to the Leader:

“One thing I have learned about Bob that sets him apart from anyone I can think of, as far as having an attorney, is Bob really loves our city. You can hire an attorney and usually they’re just hired guns, but this guy (Sweeney) is for real. He grew up in the city and raised his family here. He has a long history with the city and he truly cares about the city and wants it to be a success. I think when you get these kinds of people who do a good job for you, you need to do what you can to keep them.”

I guess that’s why he lives in Crestwood? I think what Sweeney loves about Arnold is that the city gives him lots of money and power. And when Counts says Sweeney does a good job, he means a good job of covering for Counts and his cronies.

Here is the information that city administrator Bryan Richison gave the council concerning hourly rates for area city attorneys:

atty fee table1

From this, you would say, yeah, Arnold is way at the bottom of the list, and even with the $40 raise, they are still low. But you have to remember that, like a car salesman, Sweeney makes it up on volume. Here’s his formula:

low hourly rate X lots of hours billed = $$lots of cash$$

While he’s not billing the city $200,000 or more like he was a decade ago, as you will see below, he is still making plenty of money despite his low hourly rate. I did a comparison of the annual city attorney payments made by Arnold to other area cities of similar populations. This kind of data was not presented to the council. Here’s what I found:

atty fee table2

The green row shows where Arnold is now. The city’s attorney expenditures are in line with similarly-sized cities, even with Arnold’s low hourly rate, and maybe even on the low end when divided by population (Arnold is the 2nd biggest city on this list). But if we take Arnold’s 2015 and 2016 spending on attorney’s fees and increase it by 40% to estimate the impact of the pay raise (the first row, in red), we see that Arnold shoots to the top of the list when you average the two years together and divide by each city’s population (“$/person avg” column). This is what Arnold taxpayers can expect going forward. Also note that Arnold’s median income is much lower than the other cities mentioned.

Retainer Option

You can see in the next to last column that three cities on the list pay a retainer fee to their city attorneys (Creve Coeur, Webster Groves, Manchester). The retainer is a monthly set fee that covers basic city attorney duties. If work needs to be done that is outside the scope of the retainer, that work is billed at the hourly fee listed in column two. Services that generally fall under the retainer include attendance at council and board meetings, consultations with the mayor, council members, and department heads, and review of documents.

It seems like Arnold could save some money by going the retainer route, given the apparently high number of hours billed by Sweeney. But Arnold probably won’t do that if it is not advantageous for Sweeney’s bottom line.

Advertisements

Sweeney Screws Up Again

27 Mar

Oh man, the laughs were loud and side-splitting in my household when I belatedly saw this little tidbit. It turns out that the Saline Valley Fire Protection District, which got a tax hike passed in August of 2016, has to go before the voters again for a redo. Why?

Because their attorney, Bob Sweeney, f’ed up the ballot language!!!

According to the Leader, who limited this story to its West Side edition in February, the State Auditor’s office ruled that the tax initiative from 2016 only applied to that year. Here is the 2016 language:

Shall the board of directors of the Saline Valley Fire Protection District of Jefferson County, Missouri be authorized to levy an additional operating tax of not more than twenty-five cents ($0.25) on the one hundred dollars ($100.00) assessed valuation to provide funds for the support of the District, with the levy increase to be effective for taxes imposed in 2016?

That last sentence does seem a bit awkward. We see tax increases on the ballot left and right in these parts, especially on the upcoming April 4 ballot, and the other entities don’t have this problem. Couldn’t Sweeney just have copy and pasted some language? Why did he put the year in there like that?

Here’s a delicious excerpt from the Leader article:

saline sweeney

Rebuke! So now Saline has to spend $5,474 to hold another election. That money should come out of the district’s payments to Sweeney, but the board probably won’t make such a common sense move. That amount is surprisingly low to me, considering that Sweeney’s decision to illegally kick a candidate off the ballot in the North Jefferson Ambulance District cost that entity $20,000 in extra election costs.

This is more evidence of my repeated assertion that Sweeney, who serves as attorney for a multitude of local entities, including the cities of Arnold and Byrnes Mill, is, in addition to being ethically bankrupt, just not a very good lawyer. Since municipal law is almost all he does, you would think he could handle something simple like this. Now if only these entities would realize he’s a bad lawyer and get rid of him…

More Arnold Mayor Drama

One person who seems to have belatedly realized that Sweeney is no good is Arnold city councilman and mayoral candidate Phil 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 Sandra Kownacki, to apparently come around to the realization that things are rotten in Arnold. I suspect, though, that part of Amato’s epiphany is politically motivated.

Now, the Leader reports that Amato has filed a complaint against Sweeney with the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel (OCDC) of the state Supreme Court (I understand this is not the first complaint against Sweeney filed there). Amato says Sweeney violated attorney-client privilege as it relates to the election deal that Amato offered Counts. I don’t know if this particular complaint is legitimate, but if you have to get Al Capone for tax evasion, or get OJ for robbery, that’s good enough for me.

The Leader also reports that the bogus Missouri Election Commission (MEC) claim Counts filed against Amato for the election deal offer was dismissed by MEC for being out of its jurisdiction. Sadly, there is only one week left in this contentious Arnold mayor election campaign. With events like this, I wish it would drag on for months.

Sweeney Post Office Box and Local Elections

19 Aug

I wrote here about how an employee of Arnold and Byrnes Mill city attorney Robert Sweeney named Lisa French was, strangely, the deputy treasurer for the failed Prop C effort to pass a half-cent sales tax in Arnold to fund stormwater and infrastructure improvements in 2015.

French, from Hillsboro, is also the deputy treasurer for a new political action committee (PAC) called The JeffCo Dems. While French listed what I assume is her home address in the paperwork for Building a Better Arnold, she lists PO Box 20 in Hillsboro as her address in the paperwork for The JeffCo Dems. That same address is also listed as the address for the PAC itself. Allison Sweeney, daughter and law partner of Bob Sweeney, who also serves as Byrnes Mill prosecutor, is the treasurer of The JeffCo Dems and also for Democrat county council candidate for district 2 Roger Hendrix (she also wrote a letter to the Leader supporting Democrat Nathan Stewart for re-election as judge). Box 20 is listed as the address for Hendrix’s campaign committee and as the address for both Sweeney and his deputy treasurer, French.

PO Box 20 is also the address for – guess who – the Sweeney Law Firm. Generally, Bob Sweeney has preferred to do his political meddling behind the scenes, but I guess now his organization is going overt in its support for Democrats.

I asked this question in regards to Arnold Prop C, but it comes up again: if Bob Sweeney’s employees are listing the firm’s address as their address on these forms, are they doing political work as part of their job duties? Is Sweeney thus giving unreported in-kind donations to these PACs and Hendrix?

Old PAC Same as the New PAC

Now, I say that The JeffCo Dems is a new PAC, but in fact it is a reformed version of a PAC formed in March 2015 called….JeffCo Dems. This is according to paperwork filed at the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) website. JeffCo Dems was terminated on 5/25/16, the same day that The JeffCo Dems was formed. The old group transferred all of its money on hand, $3141.63, to the new group. Both groups have the same treasurers, Sweeney and French. Why end one group and start a new one just to add “the” to the PAC name?

Somehow, the old PAC does not have any finance reports on the MEC website other than its termination report. So we don’t know where it got $4,660 of the $4,920 it brought in, or how it spent $814 of that money (the rest that was not transferred to the new group went mostly to Hillsboro homecoming supplies). The new group has received about $2,300 from traditional Democrat sources: Democrat candidates, a labor group, and lawyers.

Given the Sweeney history of shadiness, I think these committees are worth keeping an eye on.

Vote Against Sweeney

26 Mar

Update: A new lawsuit filed by eliminated-from-the-ballot Shaun Missey touches on these very issues.

If you live within the boundaries of the North Jefferson County Ambulance District (NJCAD), you should take interest in my series of posts on the unlawful removal from the ballot of board candidate Ron Woehrle. The attempted electoral malfeasance by board attorney Bob Sweeney, which was similar to what he did in Arnold, was overturned by a circuit court judge. The question is, why did Sweeney attempt to pull this stunt? Woehrle will tell you that Sweeney knew Woehrle wouldn’t stand for the type of Sweeney shenanigans that are causing so much turmoil in Arnold. He won’t stand for the enrichment of Sweeney and his cronies with taxpayer dollars. So on April 2nd, elect Ron Woehrle, and send a message to Sweeney that you won’t stand for his style of politics.

Residents of the High Ridge Fire District also have the opportunity to vote for Woehrle, and I recommend they do so as well.

Arnold voters, as always, can register their opinion on Sweeney government. Votes for Rodney Mullins (Ward 3 write-in) and Sandra Kownacki (Ward 4) will help keep Sweeney in check and protect your tax dollars.

Sweeney Loses in Court in Ballot Suit

20 Feb

The lawlessness behind Bob Sweeney’s removal of candidates from the April ballot over their personal property taxes was proved once and for all Friday, when Jefferson County Div. 3 Circuit Judge Nathan Stewart sided with North Jefferson County Ambulance District (NJCAD) board candidate Ron Woehrle, and ordered him to be placed back on the ballot. Stewart ruled:

“Section 115.305 is the controlling statute and applies to this (Woehrle) case,” Stewart wrote in his ruling. “Woehrle is not prohibited by 115.342 from running for the North Jefferson County Ambulance.”

This is what I have been telling you, gentle reader, all along. This is also what Bob Sweeney told Arnold City Clerk Diane Waller in a memo in 2011 (the statutes treat municipalities and special districts – fire, ambulance, etc. – identically). Of course, that was when it was his cronies were the ones who were late on their taxes. This year, when the candidates who were late on their taxes were ones that threatened his schemes, Sweeney did a 180 and decided that the law did apply to cities and special districts. Another topic on which he changed his mind was whether or not it is the city clerk’s job to investigate tax status of candidates.

While the Leader has made no mention whatsoever of Sweeney’s actions in 2011, Arnold Patch, to its credit, has done a little digging. They quoted Arnold Finance Director Deborah Lewis, who completely blew up Sweeney’s thin justification for his electoral interference. She said that Arnold in fact does not receive direct payments from personal property tax receipts. Patch also acquired this revealing memo from Sweeney, which revealed the bankruptcy of his position:

His original justification in tatters, Sweeney had to come up with something new. This memo contains no legal citations, besides reference to a law that Sweeney concedes does not apply here. This is because he has no case law or statute to back him up. He uses this memo to further smear disqualified Arnold City Council candidate Shaun Missey (“apparently engaged in a marginally complex scheme to purposefully defraud the taxing authorities”) and place responsibility for this act squarely on Waller (“Diane, as the election authority, is disinclined to certify Mr. Shaun Missey”). But Sweeney gave Waller her marching orders in 2011: do nothing. At some point, he must have told her to do differently this time around. He also tries to deflect blame for his completely incorrect understanding of Arnold finance by saying “staff initially understood that a portion of the tax funded the road and bridge line item of the City’s income.” Substitute the word “Sweeney” for the word “staff” to make this sentence correct.

The gist of this memo is that this is an unprecedented case that the law simply does not know how to handle, and that Waller’s action (no doubt done at his urging) was “perfectly reasonable.” Wrong. As Judge Stewart pointed out, the law is clear. Missey’s removal from the ballot, obviously done for political reasons, was unlawful. Unfortunately, as absentee voting for the April election has begun, it appears that this injustice will stand and Missey will remain off the ballot. But Woehrle will run, and hopefully win.

Sweeney needs to be fired. Now. By both Arnold and the NJCAD.

Sweeney Tax Claim Refuted

11 Feb

From Arnold Patch:

Deborah Lewis, Arnold’s finance director, recently told Patch that the city receives no direct payment from personal property taxes.

“Whether we receive money indirectly, I don’t know,” Lewis said. “But we don’t get a share of personal property tax money.”

This, of course, blows up City Attorney Bob Sweeney’s entire justification for removing city council candidate Shaun Missey from the ballot. Perhaps Sweeney should have talked to Lewis before interfering in the election. This is further proof that this stunt was politically motivated. If he was really interested in the facts, shouldn’t he, or City Clerk Diane Waller, have consulted with the person the city pays to take care of finances before proceeding? Someone must have told Waller, sometime after the 2011 election (when Randy Crisler and Bill Moritz were allowed to stay on the ballot despite being late on their personal property taxes, or PPT), that PPT counts as a “municipal tax” and can be used to disqualify candidates. It clearly wasn’t Lewis, so it must have been Sweeney, whose job duties do not entail finances (other than putting an excessive amount of Arnold’s money in his pocket).

Sweeney said Arnold gets money from the road and bridge fund that gets money from the PPT. That may be true, but it would almost surely be money that is allocated by the County Council. It would be a huge stretch to call this a tax owed to the city.

Also humorous is this:

Patch tried unsuccessfully to reach Sweeney several times last week.

He’s probably trying to formulate a response. He might say that indirect payments are enough to make the law apply to Arnold. If that’s the case, then crack tax investigator Waller should be looking into the federal and state income tax status of candidates, since some of that money undoubtedly indirectly makes it to Arnold coffers. Patch has requested a memo that Sweeney wrote on this subject. It should be enlightening.

I am happy to see the Patch pursuing this story. From the correspondence I’ve had with the Leader, they seem to think they’ve already told the full story, despite not mentioning the 2011 contradiction. They are looking into the Byrnes Mill aspect of this, although the reporter didn’t seem to think it would amount to something newsworthy. We’ll see.

Sweeney Offers a Weak Justification

4 Feb

I have been asking during the past two weeks, as I have discussed the ballot-access shenanigans perpetrated by Bob Sweeney, what his justification is for such blatant political opportunism. I figured he would cite some change in law that explained why his tax-delinquent cronies could stay on the ballot in 2011, but his non-cronies had to be removed from the ballot in 2013. Well, thanks to Arnold Patch, we have his answer:

“We recently learned that a portion of the personal property tax, specifically the road and bridge line item, goes to the city,” Sweeney said. “It is in effect a city tax [Shaun] Missey owed that we did not get.”

Patch asked Sweeney if he was aware of the city receiving taxes from the road and bridge fund in 2011. Sweeney said, “At the time, I didn’t know anything about city taxes coming from the road and bridge line item.”

So it was a mere oversight. A very convenient oversight. If this is true, this is at least the second time Sweeney has provided poor-quality legal services to the city of Arnold, the first being his flawed Sunshine Law advice that prompted the threat of a lawsuit from the Missouri Attorney General in June 2012. These instances call into question Sweeney’s capabilities, and provide grounds for his termination. The City of Arnold clearly can’t trust his legal advice.

Sweeney’s attempted justification does not explain why, despite the clear reading of the statute in question, the city clerk, instead of the state Department of Revenue, made the decision to ax Shaun Missey from the ballot (if in fact the law does apply to municipalities). He could be trying to rely in RSMo 115.346, which covers late municipal tax payments, but makes no mention of who the enforcing authority is. But his claim that the personal property tax is a municipal tax is weak. Couldn’t one claim that a candidate must be investigated to determine if he is current on his state and federal income taxes, as surely some of that money makes it back to Arnold?

Can’t we also assume that Byrnes Mill receives road and bridge money from the personal property tax? Because the mayor there is being allowed to run for re-election, despite paying her 2012 personal property taxes late. Also, what money does the North Jefferson County Ambulance District get from the personal property tax, since Sweeney had a candidate removed from the ballot there, too?

Sweeney has more explaining to do, hopefully before a judge, as Missey is exploring taking legal action.

Another Sweeney Contradiction

1 Feb

The North Jefferson County Ambulance District is among the local entities that allow attorney Bob Sweeney to suckle at its teat (others being the city of Arnold, JeffCo 911, the city of Byrnes Mill, and others I may not know of). The NJCAD, incidentally, kicked a guy named Ron Woehrle off its April election ballot (Arnold did something similar). Sweeney, according to the Leader, “believes that candidates for elected positions with special districts, like ambulance and fire districts, also must be current on their taxes by the time filings close.” In this, he is in disagreement with attorney Frank Vatterott of the High Ridge Fire District. Vatterott is not the only attorney who disagrees with Sweeney. Another example is – Bob Sweeney, circa 2011. The memo he acquired and forwarded around at that time to keep his buddies on the Arnold ballot – a memo that seems to have merit – cites RSMo 115.305 (emphasis mine):

This subchapter shall not apply to candidates for special district offices, township offices in township organization counties, or city, town and village offices…

The memo uses this line to argue that 115.342, the statute that requires candidates to have paid their personal property (and other) taxes, does not apply to municipal elections. It stands to reason then, that Sweeney believed at the time that this statute also did not apply to special districts, such as the NJCAD. Does he have something against Woehrle, or is he just doing this to cover his tracks in Arnold?

Whether or not this statute applies to cities or special districts is only part of the issue. The other issue is at the end of 115.342, which states that (emphases mine):

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.

None of the candidates involved in this spate of ballot ejections has been afforded this 30-day grace period, and the Department of Revenue does not seem to have been at all involved in this process. If Sweeney and Arnold City Clerk Diane Waller want people removed from the ballot, and think that 115.342 applies here, they need to submit this form, instead of acting unilaterally and unlawfully, as they appear to be here. Note that the DOR site seems pretty clear that the entities mentioned in 115.305 are exempt from 115.342, in which case, the personal property tax rule does not apply here, which is what Sweeney said – the first time around.

Sweeney Doubles Down on Tax Hypocrisy

31 Jan

The Leader has offered up its version of the Arnold ballotgate story, by which the powers that be are using Hugo Chavez tactics to ensure their candidates are elected to city council by removing their opposition. In the story, we learn from Arnold City Attorney Bob Sweeney that personal property taxes do benefit Arnold:

“Sweeney also said that Arnold receives a small portion of the personal property tax revenue the county collects, so nonpayment disqualifies a candidate from running for an elected position in the city.”

This DIRECTLY CONTRADICTS what Sweeney said TWO YEARS AGO, when he distributed and endorsed a memo, written by someone else, in response to attempts to remove two of his cronies from the city council ballot (a memo that local news outlets are ignorant or dismissive of). The memo states (p. 5, emphasis in original):

“…if a candidate is in arrears, he/she is disqualified. However, the arrearage must be for municipal taxes/fees.”*

In the introduction he appended to this memo, Sweeney claimed that “it is not clear that either candidate referenced by Mr. Boyer is actually in violation of 115.342.” This is the law disqualifying candidates in arrears for, among other taxes, personal property taxes. But we know for a fact that Bill Moritz and Randy Crisler were in arrears as of the closing date of filing for the 2011 municipal election. So Sweeney’s statement can only mean they are not in violation because the law does not apply to municipal elections, which was his position at the time. As you can see, it is no longer his position.

To further advance the lie, in the Leader Sweeney said the city clerk is required to check that candidates are eligible to run. Again, to the memo (p. 2):

“First, it should be recognized that Section 115.352 (sic)…imposes NO duty on municipal clerks to determine the tax delinquency status of candidates.”

Can they be this blatant? The only explanation that would make sense here is that some law has changed since 2011. I have heard of no law cited that renders the 2011 memo irrelevant or out-of-date. Barring any such law, Sweeney and Co. are engaging in a bald-faced, politically-motivated, hypocritical act. Hopefully the courts get to weigh in on this, and soon.

*Arnold Ward 3 candidate Rodney Mullins is allegedly in arrears for city fees (he claims he sent in a check). Thus 115.346 would apply to him, although I see no statutory directive for the city clerk to make this determination. Arnold Ward 1 candidate Shaun Missey is allegedly in arrears on personal property taxes, thus making his situation exactly similar to that outlined in the 2011 memo.

Wegge Walks Away

18 May

Not surprisingly, Jefferson County Prosecutor Forrest Wegge, a Democrat, has decided not to run for re-election in 2018, according to the Leader. He says the usual stuff about how it’s time to try something new and he’s been thinking about stepping down for a long time. But really, we know what this is about. With the GOP wave sweeping the county, he had little chance of winning again. Add to that his total bungling of the Dianne Critchlow case, which he first punted to the feds after a six-week review, but then only upon getting the case handed back to him did he decide that he should recuse himself due to his friendship with Critchlow. Why on God’s green Earth didn’t he recuse himself the first time around?

Of course, the Leader appeared to accept his explanation for not running again, and did not press him on either of these issues. The Leader has a history of not asking obvious questions about the Critchlow debacle to relevant figures.

Hats in the Ring

Two people have already announced plans to run for the job, both as Republicans.

The first one is Trisha Stefanski, who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination to a county judge position last year. Interestingly, after the primary, she signed on to a newspaper ad (along with Bob Sweeney) which endorsed all of the Democratic candidates for judgeships. She responded to me about this issue here. Stefanski currently works in Wegge’s office. After the Critchlow debacle, though, we may need new blood at the top.

The second announced candidate is Mark Bishop, who ran against Wegge in 2006…as a Democrat. But you see, he’s not switching parties for political expediency, nope, he says the GOP “more closely aligns with my beliefs” now. Bishop is a partner and owner at Wegmann, a well-connected Hillsboro law firm. He formerly worked under St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough.

%d bloggers like this: