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Kasten Port Snort Continues; Wieland Weighs In

26 Feb

As I wrote about recently, county councilman/school board member/city administrator Jim Kasten was denied reappointment to the county Port Authority board in December over concerns that serving multiple entities as he does constitutes a conflict of interest. The idea is that situations may arise where the interests of one body are not aligned with those of another. This issue came up again at the January 23 county council meeting, but more on that later.

State senator Paul Wieland introduced a bill on February 21 that directly addresses this issue – SB449. Here is the summary of the bill:

This act specifies that no member of a board of port authority commissioners shall be an employee or independent contractor of a city or county.

Kasten is the city administrator for Herculaneum, and as such this bill would prevent him from being appointed to the JeffCo Port board. Here’s what Wieland said in his weekly newsletter:

“Growing and expanding Missouri Ports are one of my highest priorities. Having had the opportunities to visit ports across our state and nation, I am convinced that limiting the conflict of interest of policies [sic] insiders and bureaucrats will allow Port Authority Boards to make decisions and react to market conditions quicker. The fastest growing and most efficient ports are ones without these conflicts,” said Senator Wieland. “I was impressed by the acumen of our county council that they too recently voted down a nomination to our Jefferson county port authority because they recognized the conflict by having a city administrator reappointed to the board.”

If SB 449 were to become law, it would remove the temptation for future county executives to attempt to appoint any career bureaucrats.

I don’t suspect this bill will go anywhere this session, but it sends a message. Not only one in support of the county council, but in rebuke of county executive Ken Waller, who nominated Kasten for reappointment and continues to support him.

Port Vote Discussed

Several individuals, including some family members, spoke in favor of Kasten being reappointed at the January 23 meeting. A few regular critics of Pevely government showed up to support the council’s decision to not reappoint, as did lawyer Stan Schnaare, who has been involved in several politically-connected legal actions in the county and ran for judge as a Republican in 2012.

Kasten himself also spoke. According to the meeting minutes, “he explained his anger at the December 27th meeting stemmed from sadness and fear, that his feelings were hurt that not one Councilmember called to confer about the appointment and he is now fearful there is no relationship with the people he serves with on the Council.” He stated his desire to stay on the port authority. However, it sounds like this question will not be reopened for consideration.

Waller also mentioned his disapproval for how the vote was handled, and presumably he means how Kasten was not informed beforehand. The council has done this type of thing a few times in the past, and while I agree with them on the principle of this issue, I also agree that council members probably shouldn’t blindside nominees when they are voting against their appointment or reappointment to a board position.

Cardona Reacts to Court Dispute Story

19 Jan

The Post-Dispatch had a column on the 11th about a JeffCo couple, the owners of Persimmon Ridge Winery, having trouble with redneck hoosier neighbors infringing on their property and denying them access to easements. I posted this article on Facebook, and it drew a couple of comments, including one from Jefferson County judge Troy Cardona, who is handling one of the court cases mentioned in the article.

cardona-land-post

That seems a bit grumpy to me, and that libel threat is completely baseless and irresponsible. Where’s the supposedly libelous statement? Besides, most of us have jobs, and can’t just come sit in a courtroom all day. This is how the P-D article described the case Cardona is presiding over:

In 2014, they had problems with another landowner, whose property abuts Sheppard Drive, the main access to Persimmon Ridge Winery. The winery has a clear legal easement on the road, but Edward Manley III, according to court records, kept messing with it. He’d put rocks on the easement, fill in a drainage ditch to make the road flood, or dig on the back side of the road to make it less stable. Suedkamp [a winery owner] took him to court and won.

But Manley did not fix the damage. In June of this year he was ordered by Cardona to pay $15,ooo and move his crap by July 1, but he has done none of this, according to the article. Here’s what Casenet says:

manley case.jpg

A garnishment was placed on Manley, but this says it was delayed because Manley is bankrupt. But then on December 29, a Satisfaction of Judgment was filed, which would suggest the money was paid. I’m not sure what’s going on here. I contacted an owner of the winery, but got no response as of yet. But this has dragged on for over two years, and this is only one of the problem neighbors the winery is dealing with. According to a Facebook post, the winery owners will be appearing at a county council meeting soon, presumably to request some kind of assistance in dealing with these issues. I hope there’s something that can be done.

Who Will Replace Boyer on the County Council?

13 Jan

Jefferson County Councilman Bob Boyer, a Republican from the Arnold-area district 3, was elected in November to be the next county assessor. While other officials elected in November are taking office now, Boyer will not do so until September 1, so that the current assessor can complete the biennial reassessment cycle that is currently underway.

According to the county charter, section 12.3.4, it is up to the council to fill a vacancy on the council. One would think that the county executive would make the appointment in such a situation, but that is not the case. He would do so if a county office, like treasurer, became vacant, but not for a council vacancy. Boyer’s term expires after the November 2018 election, so the person the council chooses to replace him would serve for about a year before having to decide whether to run for re-election (assuming this appointment will take place in late summer/early fall).

Since the council, minus Boyer, consists of 4 Republicans and 2 Democrats, we can assume that a Republican will be appointed to the seat (sorry, Phil Amato). But who might that person be? Let’s engage in some wild speculation by looking at Republicans who have recently run for Arnold-area elected office:

EJ Fleischmann – Current Ward 1 city councilman in Arnold, elected in April 2016. He is active in local GOP politics and has ties to state Representative Dan Shaul and state Senator Paul Wieland. These ties make him a serious competitor for this seat. He is young, at only 24 years of age. Odds of being appointed: 3/2

Jason Fulbright – The other Arnold Ward 1 city councilman in Arnold. He was first elected in April 2013 (unopposed). He ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for state representative against Shaul in 2014, but won the Arnold township GOP committeeman position. Last year he was elected to the water board for the Arnold area (after that board painted the water tower blue). His party connections are growing, but I don’t think he lines up as well as Fleischmann ideologically with those who will make the appointment. He is currently signed up to run for re-election to the Arnold council in April. Odds: 4/1 He has ruled out being appointed to this seat

Dan Smith – He lost to Democrat Jeff Roorda in the 2012 race for state representative in District 113. He currently serves on the county Planning and Zoning Commission. But most importantly, he served on the Fox School Board from 2008-2014, while disgraced former Fox superintendent Dianne Critchlow was stealing from the district. Here’s what I wrote when he was appointed to P&Z:

Anybody who has served on the Fox school board over the past six years is, in my mind, automatically disqualified for any elected or appointed office, because it was the board that allowed all of this to happen, through a combination of neglect, naivete, or coziness with Critchlow.

I cannot fathom that the Jefferson County Council would actually appoint this guy to join them. Given that Critchlow has yet to experience any repercussions for her actions, I think the uproar among county residents would be quite significant if Smith was entrusted with another public office. But he still has friends in GOP circles, as indicated by his appointment to P&Z. Odds: 12/1

Phil Hendrickson – He challenged Boyer in the 2014 GOP primary for county council, losing 58-42%. He serves on the Jefferson County Code Commission. Odds: 20/1

Anybody else?

Kasten Booted from Port Board

3 Jan

Jefferson County Port Authority board of directors member Jim Kasten was denied another 3-year term by the county council on December 27. The board voted 5-0 not to approve his reappointment. Kasten is also the Herculaneum city administrator and district 5 representative (Democrat) on the county council (elected in 2014), and it is these roles that were cited by one councilman to explain the no vote.

Councilman Don Bickowski (District 1, GOP) stated at the meeting (video here – see 47:25 mark) that he felt there was a conflict of interest in Kasten holding these multiple roles. He said he also has opposed port board appointments from cities, as he thinks the board should be independent of other governmental jurisdictions. Bickowski cited the case of outgoing councilman Cliff Lane (6th district, Democrat), who he says resigned from the port board when he took office as a councilman in 2010. Lane was one of the no votes on Kasten.

I can see where Bickowski is coming from. Port board members from other jurisdictions could try to steer port development to their area (like, say, Pevely instead of Herculaneum) or otherwise score points for their cities. There is no accusation that Kasten did such a thing, but conflict of interest principles are intended to prevent even the appearance or possibility of a conflict.

Kasten was only narrowly reappointed to the port board in September 2013 for his current term. He was approved by a 4-3 vote, with current council members Bob Boyer, Renee Reuter, and Bickowski voting no, as they did this time around.

Kasten Responds

When nobody responded to the “all in favor say aye” call, Kasten let out a “you’ve got to be kidding me.” He then stated that “there’s too much ideology on the council, people coming in with set beliefs that can’t be changed or altered, no matter how much evidence to the contrary.” He insisted that he had “never, never” put the council or the port board in a conflict of interest. He went on, forcefully:

I have never, one time, shown you any reason why-I’ve given you a conflict of interest. If there is, I want you to point it out right now! You don’t have any, because all you are is a bunch of ideologues, and I’m fed up with it, and I’m gonna call you out every damn time that I get a chance.

It may be true that he has never shown a conflict. But as I stated above, the issue is of the mere possibility of the existence of conflict. Here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.

See, it says “a risk.” In this case, it is Kasten’s position in the governing structure of three different entities. Kasten’s actions don’t have to be unduly influenced; the possibility just has to be there. It’s like when Dianne Critchlow and her minions engineered the hiring of a board member’s daughter-in-law to be food service director at the Fox district, or gave a scholarship to the child of a school board member. Whether those board members were stooges to Critchlow out of stupidity or as part of a quid pro quo doesn’t matter; the fact is that there was a possibility of undue influence, and those moves should not have been allowed. (This is not to compare Kasten to Critchlow.)

So now County Executive Ken Waller will have to find someone else to fill Kasten’s spot on the port board. There was another port board dustup in 2013 when Dan Govero and Steve Markus were denied reappointment to the board, with the council citing slow progress from the board. Kasten appeared at a subsequent council meeting to beseech the council to undo that decision, which they did not.

Roorda Misleads on Port

4 Nov

I previously wondered whether or not county council candidate Jeff Roorda was actively campaigning for the office. He has since begun to do so. His main spiel this campaign is to compare the county council to a barge that sank in the Mississippi River in January, while blaming the council for buying the uninsured barge. While this is cutesy, it is wrong on the facts. The barge was bought by the JeffCo Port Authority, not the county council. One would think that a seasoned politician like Roorda would know this. While I realize he has been mostly focused on St. Louis City and County these past two years, I think this division of authority has not escaped Roorda. I think he’s just stretching the truth, as he is wont to do in his campaigns.

Roorda also brags that he helped acquire $200,000 of funding for the port. While he may have played some role in that, it is small potatoes compared to the $750,000 that Senator Paul Wieland landed when he was a representative. In addition, while claiming to be a big port supporter and the sole arbiter of who deserves credit for the port, Roorda actually voted against port funding in 2013. The port funding was attached to a bill that funded the Department of Revenue for 8 months, with the remaining 4 months of funding to be considered later. But JeffCo Democrats were so worried about that DOR funding (this was after DOR was found to be sharing concealed carry license info with the feds) that they voted against the bill, and thus against the port funding.

And while Roorda claims nothing has happened with the port, there is in fact a lot of activity on the riverfront, including a barge fleeting operation, sand loading and shipment, and coming soon, the Delta Queen. But he might not be paying attention to us here in JeffCo.

Roorda’s Focus Elsewhere

I have mentioned before Roorda’s preoccupation with sharing his incendiary views on cable TV. Roorda claims this as one of his great accomplisments.

I fight every day for cops. Other than Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, no one has spent more time on CNN, Fox and other national networks standing up for the police.

Like that guy you know that agrees with you on the issues but embarrasses you when he argues his case in a foolish way, I’m not sure Roorda is an effective advocate for police, given his divisiveness. And I have to ask, if a controversial police shooting takes place on the second Monday of a month, where would a councilman Roorda go: to the scheduled council meeting, or to the TV studio to get his mug on CNN?

And what about his rumored involvement in the St. Louis mayoral race (the vote is in April):

It would be difficult for Roorda to be a councilman while trying to run a St. Louis political campaign. And if Dotson were to win the election (unlikely), Roorda would probably be in line for a spot in Dotson’s administration. How could he serve St. Louis and JeffCo at the same time? Roorda needs to come clean on what his plans are in regards to a Dotson campaign and a Dotson administration.

Is Jeff Roorda Campaigning for County Council?

27 Sep

Update: As of 10/6, I am seeing some Roorda signs along the roads of the 4th district.

November’s showdown for the district 4 seat on the county council features two familiar faces in JeffCo politics; former councilman and former Rock Ambulance board member Charles Groeteke on the GOP side and former state representative Jeff Roorda on the Democrat side.

Interestingly, I have not seen any evidence of a Roorda campaign. I have seen no signs, no website, no ads. I haven’t even seen a website smearing his opponent, like the one that popped up during Roorda’s 2012 race for state representative. Have you seen any of this, or seen him in any parades? Let me know in the comments. He has been on CNN a few times recently to defend cops involved in shootings. He has become CNN’s go-to guy for this duty. He also has a book coming out just after election day about what he calls the “war on police.”

One thing Roorda has been doing, however, is raising money. As of the beginning of this month, he had raised over $32,000, mostly from lawyers and unions, compared to $8,000 for Groeteke. But Roorda has only made about $7,000 in expenditures (not including over $8,000 in loan repayments to himself and his old candidate committee). The expenditures were mostly putting on a golf tournament and giving charitable gifts to police and veterans groups from the campaign account. He spent a mere $200 on signs. Groeteke has spent about $3,300, including $2,100 for printing and mailing.

There are 41 days until the election. Roorda could start campaigning yet, though it is getting kind of late, but he has the money necessary to launch a late blitz. He has a fundraiser on Friday.

Fundraising Idea

I have a suggestion for Groeteke for raising some money. Every time Roorda goes on CNN, his critics launch an avalance of anti-Roorda messages on Twitter (see here). What Groeteke could do is put up a fundraising page, and when these tweet storms are happening, put out his own tweets that say “Hey, I am running AGAINST JEFF ROORDA in November. Help me defeat him!” with a link to the fundraising page. I bet he could get some contributions out of this. I would downplay Groeteke’s GOP ties on the website, though, since Roorda’s opponents are mostly members or supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and probably not big fans of the GOP.

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.

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