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Plaintiffs Proliferate in Pursuit of Politician Pay

22 Mar

On the last day of 2015, Bruce King, Democrat former elected public administrator for Jefferson County who was defeated for re-election in 2012, filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County court against the county, alleging that the county charter had been misinterpreted and that he was not paid as much money as he should have been. The lawsuit demanded back pay and retroactive credits towards retirement.

At the time, observers including me speculated that King was merely a front man, one who no longer had a political career to protect, who was filing the suit on behalf of other greedy incumbent elected officials. Well that belief has been affirmed, because a slew of current and former county elected officials added their names to the suit in January of this year. Most notable, I would say, is county executive Ken Waller, a Republican, who I hear is actively pursuing another job at this time, with two years left in his term. Here is the rest of the list of new plaintiffs:

  • Mark Abel – Democrat deceased former treasurer. His wife is also on the suit, presumably to collect his posthumous windfall.
  • Chuck Banks – Democrat former county commissioner.
  • Marlene Castle – Democrat former recorder of deeds.
  • Randy Holman – Democrat former assessor and current appointed county clerk (put in place by Waller).
  • Pat Lamping – Democrat former county commissioner.
  • Beth Mahn – Democrat current collector.
  • Linda Nees – Democrat former treasurer.
  • Terry Roesch – Democrat outgoing assessor.
  • Dorothy Stafford – Democrat former auditor.
  • Wes Wagner – Democrat former county clerk, who left in the middle of his term for a private sector job.
  • Steve Farmer – Republican current public administrator.

We must condemn the above officials, all of whom are/were making $70-85,000, who knew when they took their jobs what they would be paid, but are now going to the courts to attempt to extract money from taxpayers, in many cases well after they left office. But let us praise those elected officials (who served prior to 2017) who have apparently chosen not to join this lawsuit (let me know if I missed someone):

  • Richard Carter – Republican current assessor.
  • Debbie Dunnegan – Republican current recorder of deeds.
  • Forrest Wegge – Democrat current prosecutor.
  • Michael Reuter – Republican current circuit court clerk.
  • Howard Wagner – Democrat former circuit court clerk.
  • Glenn Boyer – Democrat former sheriff.
  • Survivors of Ed Kemp, Democrat deceased former county commissioner.

The plaintiffs are citing section 7.7.3.11 of the county charter (page 38), which says that “the annual salary of every elected County Officer is not to be less than the annual salary of the holder of the equivalent office in a first-class non-charter county.” The suit then goes on the cite the salaries of elected officeholders in Boone County (which is where Columbia is). Never mind that there are 13 other first-class non-charter counties they could have chosen to compare with JeffCo.The lawsuit says:

“The clear intent also was to provide that…salaries would be adjusted upward to match those of office holders of the highest paying first class non-charter county.”

Doesn’t sound clear to me at all. In general, this seems like a poorly thought out and drafted provision.

All told, this lawsuit could cost the county over $600,000, according to the Leader. This is in addition to the legal costs, as the county has hired an outside law firm to deal with this case (see page 22).

Speaking of lawyers, local attorney and JeffCo GOP apparatchik Derrick Good is one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in this case. He even helped write the damn county charter that he is trying to exploit via loophole in true lawyerly fashion. Did he help draft the provision in question? It is sad (sad!) to see several supposed conservatives joining in on this effort to divert taxpayer money to their bank accounts.

JeffCo Senators Miffed at Governor

7 Feb

Both of the state senators that represent parts of Jefferson County expressed displeasure with Governor Eric Greitens, a fellow Republican, last week.

First, in a spat that got a lot of attention, Greitens ventured over to the Capitol when it looked like the Senate was going to fail to block a pay raise for elected officials that was recommended by a citizen panel. The raises take effect unless the legislature blocks them by a 2/3 vote in each house. So Greitens called GOP senators who were considering a no vote (no to blocking the raise) or a recusal into the office he was occupying to attempt to convince them to stop the pay raise. Senator Paul Wieland, who later said he was leaning towards a no vote at the time, was one who met with the governor. Wieland said the meeting was tense and that the governor tried to intimidate him.

In the end, Wieland and another senator voted no on the issue, but the pay raise was successfully blocked. Afterwards, Greitens took to Facebook to express his displeasure:

greitens-fb

(see the rest of the post here)

On Sunday, Wieland appeared on the TV show “This Week in Missouri Politics” to give his side of the story. He stated that he “does not respond well to pressure;” that he didn’t want to give in because he thought the governor would come back on the next issue and try to twist his arm again. He said he went from leaning towards support for the pay raise before the meeting to being firmly in favor of it after the meeting, because of the governor’s strong attempt to get him to change his vote.

In explaining his position, Wieland said he opposed pay raises the past three years, but that this raise was only 2% for legislators, who now make about $36,000 per year plus $104 per day for expenses. The legislative session lasts from the beginning of January through mid-May, plus a few days of veto session in September. The raise would have given them about $1,800 more in pay and raised per diem to $150. Wieland said that to attract good people to serve in the government, the pay has to keep up.

Wieland said he met with the governor the day after the pay raise vote, and that they are committed to working together going forward.

The Other Senator

Senator Gary Romine was not happy about Greitens’ budget address:

Specifically, Romine did not like the governor’s reference to “career politicians” (a term Greitens uses a lot) in the legislature causing the current Missouri budget crisis. Romine stated that there are no career politicians in the legislature due to term limits, and that the executive and legislative branches are a team and need to respect each other.

All in all, I know the legislative majority is glad to have a GOP governor now, so he can sign the bills they pass rather than veto them. And I think it is good that we have a governor that is engaged with legislators, as opposed to previous governor Jay Nixon’s aloofness. I also think it is good that the governor and legislature are not completely in lockstep; they need to keep each other accountable so bad bills don’t get passed (insert liberal objections here). Greitens clearly feels that passing a pay raise would have been horrible optics amid the state’s current budget situation. There may be more tense moments going forward, but I think legislative-executive relations will be fine and productive.

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?

Big Labor Power Waning in JeffCo

16 Nov

According to liberal Post-Dispatch columnist (is there any other kind)?) Tony Messenger, unsuccessful Missouri Democratic candidate for governor Chris Koster began his election day in Arnold, speaking to union grocery workers.

This is not too surprising, as JeffCo has long been seen as a union stronghold. But the results of Tuesday’s election suggest that those days are in the past.

One of the major issues of the gubernatorial campaign was right to work. GOP candidate Eric Greitens was all for it, while Koster was strongly against it. One would think that this would have made a big difference in our county. But Greitens carried Jefferson County by a 53.6 percent to 42.7 percent margin, even bigger than his statewide 51.3 – 45.4 win.

In local legislative races, two incumbent representatives who have cast votes in favor of right to work were on the ballot. Rob Vescovo, Republican in the 112th district, won a rematch with Robert Butler by a 59.6 percent t0 40.3 percent margin. Two years ago, Vescovo won with 60.0 percent of the vote, so his right to work support had virtually no effect on his margin of victory.

Likewise, Dan Shaul, Republican in the 113th district, won re-election by a 57.8 to 42.1 margin. Two years ago, he received 56.9 percent of the vote against an arguably weaker opponent. His foe this year, Karen Settlemoir-Berg, actually works for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

While most Republican legislators from JeffCo still oppose right to work (RTW), it is clear now that supporting it is not a career-killer for local politicians like it has been perceived to be in the past. But now that Missouri has a Republican governor, only a bare majority in the Legislature, instead of a veto-proof one, will be needed to pass a RTW law. It is likely that, in a few short months, RTW will be passed and signed and will be taken off the table as a political issue.

Some Post-Election Notes

9 Nov

It was a clean sweep in JeffCo for the Republicans, as they won every office in the county, and received majorities here in every statewide race. The one that most surprises me, I’d say, is sheriff. I figured that Democrat candidate Steve Meinberg’s experience as Glenn Boyer’s right-hand man would overcome the GOP tide, since Boyer seems to be fairly popular, but GOP candidate Dave Marshak won with a big 58% of the vote.

Donald Trump received 64.5% of the JeffCo vote, with almost 69,000 votes out of 107,000. By comparison, here are the totals of the last two presidential winners of our county:

2012: Mitt Romney: 55%, 54,000 votes out of 97,700

2008: Barack Obama, 50.5%, 53,000 votes out of 105,700

As you see, Trump blew them out big league. For another comparison, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson got 3,966 votes here this year, versus 1,715 in 2012, getting more than double the votes this time.

Here’s a table comparing Trump and statewide GOP candidates’ vote percentages in JeffCo versus statewide:

gop-2016-nov-percents

As you see, Trump’s statewide numbers were in line with some of the other candidates (Josh Hawley even got more total votes than Trump). But in JeffCo, Trump far exceeded the other GOP statewide candidates. So this former rep, who was defeated in 2014, was partially right:

“There’s ticket splitters galore this year,” said former state Rep. Michael Frame, who used to represent part of Jefferson County. “I have heard the Trump-Koster thing a million times over. Folks are talking about that quite a bit in the diners, in the Hardee’s, at the McDonald’s.”

While Democrats Chris Koster and Jason Kander got 14-15,000 more votes in JeffCo than Hillary Clinton did, it was not enough to overcome their GOP opponents. In every case, the GOP candidate got a higher vote percentage in JeffCo than he did Missouri-wide. Instead of a bellwether or a swing county, JeffCo is becoming an important vote source for Republican candidates in Missouri.

Vote percentages for GOP candidates in the countywide races ranged from 55-62%, not including the judicial race for division 1, which Republican Wes Yates won with only 52% of the vote. So with the possible exception of Yates, I’d say that Trump’s coattails weren’t needed to facilitate the JeffCo GOP sweep of 2016.

Trump’s big numbers here can only mean he won some Democrat votes. Considering that the average vote count among Republicans listed on all county ballots was about 58,000, compared to Trump’s almost 69,000, that means that about 10,000 county Dems voted for him. The way he won over so many Democratic voters (or Hillary scared them away) in our blue-collar county is probably indicative of how he won the presidential election.

In my next post, I will take a look at the weakened state of Big Labor in our county.

JeffCo GOP Candidates Support Trump, Dem Candidates Run From Hillary

30 Oct

Update: I am scratching Todd Melkus off this list because, at the end of his spiel, he did state his support for his party’s nominee. My apologies.

This year, it its election guide, the Leader asked the candidates if they support their party’s nominee for president. I think this is a somewhat worthwhile question, unlike some of the other questions they ask (like “should county council seats be nonpartisan?”). The takeaway from this question is that all GOP candidates in the county were happy to state their support for Donald Trump, but that many Democrat candidates would not endorse Hillary Clinton. None of them outright said they would not support her, they merely ducked the question in various ways. Here is a list of county Democratic candidates who would not answer whether or not they support Hillary:

Unclear: Legislature candidate Karen Settlemoir-Berg gave an uncertain answer. One could read it as a Hillary endorsement or a dodge. Read her answer here and judge for yourself.

JeffCo August Primary Results

2 Aug

The vote results are in for our county. They came in fairly early this time, compared to recent years, with updates throughout the night instead of a big dump at the end of the night. Candidates in bold below are ones I endorsed.

For the statewide GOP races, our results mirrored what is happening statewide (so far), with Greitens for governor, Parson for lt. governor, Hawley for AG, and Ashcroft for SoS prevailing. Greitens has right about 35% of the 4-way vote both in JeffCo and statewide. On the Democrat side, Jake Zimmerman has a 3,000 vote lead at 50.7% in the AG race as I write this, but he won JeffCo by 2,200 votes at 60%. Judy Baker leads the treasurer race with about 62% here and statewide.

Locally, Bob Boyer pulled out a close win in the GOP assessor race. He was trailing early, as the votes from the southern part of the county came in first, but when the northern vote was tabulated, he won 36-34-29 over Mary Dunnegan and Cary Blum.

Paula Wagner cruised in the GOP treasurer race, 47-28-23 over Mark Paul and Ken Horton.

Charles Groeteke, known for losing two nailbiter races, defeated George Engelbach in a county council race that also seemed to come down to north vs south vote, by a 56-44 margin (almost 400 votes). He will face Jeff Roorda in November.

Incumbent Shane Roden prevailed in a five-way primary for House district 111 with 44% of the vote. Gary Bonacker came in 2nd with 28%.

Dan Stallman beat Kevin Weaver in council district 6 by 66 votes out of 3,600 cast in the closest race of the night.

Dave Marshak rolled to the GOP sheriff nomination, getting half the vote in a 3-way field. Ron Arnhart got 33% while Sean Cooper registered only 16%. Marshak will take on Steve Meinberg in November.

On the Democrat side, for House district 113, Karen Settlemoir-Berg beat perennial primary candidate Mike Evans by 59-41. She will take on Dan Shaul in November.

The three incumbent US Congressmen who represent our county did not fare all that well within our borders. Ann Wagner got only 77% and Blaine Luetkemeyer got 67% vs. minor challengers, and Jason Smith lost the county to Todd Mahn of Festus (but cruised district-wide). Likewise, Senator Roy Blunt got only 68% of the county GOP vote.

The one competitive judicial primary was won by Katherine Hardy Senkel, with a 34.3-33.9-31.8 victory over Tony Dorsett and Trisha Stefanski. Hardy Senkel beat Dorsett by only 83 votes.

The car sales tax issue Prop V won everywhere, while school tax votes lost in Dunklin and won in Sunrise. A Saline Fire tax vote was successful.

And finally, Chief Wana Dubie got 11% of the JeffCo vote for US Senator (Jason Kander won here with  69%).

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