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Eviction Stunt at Pevely Board Meeting

27 Jun

I wrote here about an uncorroborated claim of a threat levied by Pevely alderman Larry Coulson and his wife Diane against former alderman Dave Bewig, and Diane’s subsequent, fully documented threat against Bewig. This series of events led to Bewig being banned indefinitely from board meetings, and to the Coulsons both being appointed to the Pevely Park Board (although Diane only squeaked by on a 3-2 vote by the park board).

I mentioned in that post that the way Bewig was evicted from the May 20 BoA meeting was strange. I put together some video to show you. But first, here is a crude graphic to point out the major players:

boa-labels1

Here is video #1. It does not have audio. Below I will post an annotated timeline:

Continue reading

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Claims from Wife of Pevely Alderman Have No Corroboration; Leader Article on the Accusation is Fake News

28 May

The May 23 Leader contains a report of an accusation by Diane Coulson, wife of Pevely alderman Larry Coulson, that former alderman Dave Bewig threatened her and/or her husband. Mayor Steph Haas used this threat as a pretext to expel Bewig from the May 20 board meeting and ban him from future meetings. The Leader describes the accusation as a he-said, she-said kind of event, quoting the Coulsons’ accusation from the police report and Bewig’s denials to the paper. However, the police report contains several items that call into question the reliability of the Coulsons. The Leader ignored all of these items.

First of all, here is the police report. Go read it. I will wait.

Here are the items that I believe speak to the lack of trustworthiness of the Coulsons:

  • They made three contradictory statements about who Bewig threatened to “shoot in the back of the head.” First it was Larry, then it was Diane, then it was “not sure.”
  • Diane twice lied (or was very confused) in front of a police officer (Greg Long) about whether she had been talking to Long about filing a police report. Long stated in the report that Diane said she was going to get a restraining order. Then the mayor, and later her husband, approached her. She told both of them that she was talking to Long about filing a police report. Long denied this both times, since she had only mentioned a restraining order, and he explained the difference. Diane continued to insist that she told the cop she wanted to file a police report. Alternatively, it is possible that Diane was confused about the difference between a police report and an order of protection. But given that Larry had been a cop, I doubt it.
  • Diane stated twice to officer Long that SHE was going to kill Bewig.
  • Despite several people, including police officers, being nearby when Bewig supposedly made his threat, nobody else heard him say it. And Dave Bewig is not one who speaks softly.

Given these facts, we have ample reason to doubt the Coulsons’ claims. One could explain this as Diane merely mishearing something, but given the way the mayor and her cronies jumped at the chance to use the report to their advantage, this starts to look like a manufactured stunt. The way that the Bewig eviction from the May 20 meeting played out adds additional reason to believe this is all a stunt. I will explore that in a later post.

Note also that no restraining order has been served against Bewig, so either the judge denied it or the Coulsons did not follow through on their announced intention to pursue one. Bewig filed for a restraining order against Diane, but he was denied.

The reporting officer stated that she wants the incident forwarded to the county prosecutor “due to this incident involving two Alderman (sic).” It is clear that the officer is doing this because of the political sensitivity, not because of the abundance of evidence of a crime. But city attorney Sean Westhoff used that statement to justify the expulsion of Bewig.

But when is Diane Coulson going to be banned from meetings? She is the only person in this incident for whom we have proof of a stated threat of violence. Haas said “we will not tolerate that type of behavior,” but apparently she is very selective of what she will and will not tolerate.

It is true that Bewig was impeached by the board in 2015 (under questionable circumstances), and that he can be abrasive and use salty language, but Pevely can’t ban him from board meetings based on such weak sauce as this.

Leader Fake News

Now, I don’t use the term “fake news” lightly, but we know that the Leader reviewed the police report described above, as it is mentioned in the article. How is it that the Leader failed to mention all of the evidence that serves to discount the Coulson claim? The paper included the above-mentioned statement by Westhoff in the article, but said nothing of the numerous holes in the Coulson story. In fact, the Leader takes two of the contradictory statements from the Coulsons about who was threatened, and treats them as two separate claims:

According to the report, Coulson’s wife allegedly heard Bewig threaten her husband.

Larry Coulson told police that Bewig “has continued with a course of conduct over the past year” that is a “direct attempt to intimidate a city official.” [Note – no evidence is provided to back this up.]

A police officer is quoted as saying Diane Coulson told him that Bewig had threatened her, too.

The fact is that Larry told one officer that Diane heard Bewig threaten Larry. But Diane told another officer that Bewig threatened her. These are not separate incidents, these are two descriptions of the same incident. Instead of treating this as a contradiction, the Leader treats it as a pattern of conduct by Bewig. They completely twisted evidence that makes one party look bad 180 degrees to make the other party look bad. Five days after the incident, Diane told police she wasn’t sure who Bewig threatened.

I made a comment the other day on my Facebook page that certain county politicians and officials should donate generously to the Leader‘s plea for donations, in thanks for all the friendly, favorable coverage the paper gives them. Mayor Haas was one politician I mentioned. Give the way the Leader article on these “threats” is spun against Bewig, Haas should give an even larger donation.

Pevely Officer Blows The Whistle Again

19 May

On the same night that the Pevely board of aldermen voted to fire two police officers (the one who assaulted a detained man and the one who helped cover it up), they also voted 6-0 to give officer Joe St. Clair a letter of commendation.

In the full version of the video of the Robert “Ryan” Watson assault incident at the Pevely police booking area (starting at the 38-second mark here), you can see an officer step in front of Watson (his superior officer) as Watson heads around the counter in a hot rage. Watson ignores the officer and blows past him. That officer was St. Clair.

watson video

In addition, acting police chief Larry Miller said that it was an officer that initially alerted him to the incident, which occurred on April 23. Watson was fired on May 8.

Adding all this evidence together, we can assess that it was St. Clair who alerted Miller about the incident. We know that he witnessed it firsthand, after all.

This is not the first time that St. Clair has raised alarms about improper police conduct. In 2015, after leaving his previous job with the Bellefontaine Neighbors police, St. Clair let KMOV know that the mayor and police chief there had enacted a per-officer quota of 50 traffic tickets, ordinance violations, parking violations, etc, per month. St. Clair provided paperwork to prove it. The mayor and chief said they were doing nothing wrong, in typical corrupt north St. Louis County municipal fashion. However, these allegations led to the Dept. of Justice getting involved in the situation.

Officer St. Clair deserves commendation for holding other officers accountable for wrongdoing. And Miller and the board deserve credit for acting quickly to get rid of Watson and his thin blue line partner, Wayne Casey.

However, the fact is that an outside investigation is needed of the Pevely PD. There have been too many misdeeds in the past few years. The JeffCo Sheriff’s Department uncovered lots of problems in recent investigations of the Hillsboro and DeSoto police. I’m sure if given the chance to take a comprehensive look, they could find a lot of things to fix in Pevely. But it seems like Mayor Stephanie Haas and the board don’t want to let that happen. Haas denied to media outlets after the Watson video emerged that there were any problems with the Pevely PD. But here is a video from January in which two former officers outlined many problems they had seen in the Pevely PD. They asked for an outside investigation, but no action was taken on that. I think that, if Watson’s victim chooses to file a lawsuit, which is a no-brainer decision, actions such as these by the city will only help raise the dollar amount of the final settlement.

Better Together JeffCo Proposal

17 Mar

The STL region is all atwitter about the Better Together proposal, which suggests a merger of the city of St. Louis and unincorporated St. Louis County, as well as consolidating some of the functions of the municipalities of the county. The plan is to vote on this statewide in 2020 in order to make changes to the state constitution to enable the new governing structure. Overall, I am in favor of this proposal because there is indeed too much duplication of functions in the area, along with uneven quality of service, and significant savings could be found by streamlining – if they actually go through with getting rid of unnecessary employees and offices. This would also reduce the instances of cities competing with each other with tax breaks to get Walmarts and other businesses to come to their specific areas.

The duplication is most visible is the existence of so many small, corrupt and/or incompetent municipal police departments within STL County. In addition, the city of St. Louis is a basket case and governance there can only be improved through this proposal.

How About Here?

Along the same lines, I would like to lay out a proposal for Better Together JeffCo. I believe there are a number of functions in this county that could be merged to save money and stem the constant tax increases that we have been seeing. A lot of people crow about “local control,” but in small jurisdictions that too often leads to a lack of candidates for election to boards, which leads to uncontested elections, which leads to unaccountable politicians, which often leads to abuses, bad decisions, unethical actions, and even criminal wrongdoing.

The wave of revelations of incompetence and wrongdoing in local police departments in DeSoto, Hillsboro, Byrnes Mill, and Pevely provide further evidence that my proposal is needed. Despite all of the shocking deficiencies that have been uncovered, each city has refused to shut down its police department. This doesn’t just affect finances, it affects the administration of justice, as innocent people get assaulted by unqualified police officers, incompetent chiefs chase away good cops, and guilty people go free due to shoddy evidence storage. As you can imagine, police issues are a big part of my proposal, which is as follows:

Elements of the Plan

-Merge all 911 dispatch into one entity. The majority of the county is on the same system, but Crystal City, Pevely, Festus, and DeSoto do their own police dispatching and Festus does its own fire dispatch. According to the state tax table, CC and DeSoto pay the 1/2-cent 911 sales tax, even though they have their own dispatchers. Festus and Pevely residents would start paying the tax, but the cities would save money by cutting their own dispatch services.

-Merge Pevely and Herculaneum. While Pevely is a constant source of drama and dischord, Herculaneum is a relative bastion of calm. I hardly ever write about events there, because there is not much to report. At the same time, Herculaneum looked into turning its policing over to the county sheriff last year due to its desperate financial situation (but foolishly declined). Herky is using Pevely’s jail and was using Pevely for dispatch before switching to the county 911 system. It is hard to see how Herky, with the loss of Doe Run, can afford to sustain its police. By merging the cities, they can pool resources, and the additional population will dilute the Pevely craziness, so you may end up with one functional, solvent city with reduced drama. These two cities already share a school district.

-Merge Festus and Crystal City. Come on now, we know that this split is ridiculous. I mean, the Walmart is shared by the two cities, and half the time you don’t know which of the two cities you are in. This would prevent things like Crystal City having its own separate water system instead of joining in with Festus and Herculaneum. In 2013 there was a discussion of merging the two cities fire departments into a fire district, but it went nowhere. This proposal could also include merging the school districts.

-Merge fire and ambulance districts. There are currently 7 ambulance and 18 fire districts (including municipal ones) in the county.

Maps from Jefferson County Data Book

Most of the time, from what I have seen, when there is an ambulance somewhere, you will also see a fire truck. Or you will see trucks from multiple districts at the same incident. In addition, there are places like Highway M where you have a Rock ambulance district building within a mile of one Antonia firehouse and within two miles of another one. If these entities would share facilities, we would not need to build so many of them. This would also allow for fewer administrators and officers. We are seeing requests for fire and ambulance tax increases nearly every election. Mergers would save money and reduce the need for tax hikes. The boundaries don’t line up perfectly, but I think you could have each ambulance district absorb the fire districts within it.

-Get rid of municipal police departments except for Arnold, Festus/CC, and Pevely/Herky (assuming the latter two pairs are merged as per above). The other cities would turn their policing over to the county sheriff. The small departments in the county have shown us that they don’t have the ethics, standards, training, or finances to survive on their own. Turning their duties over to the county will bring about economies of scale, eliminating unnecessary chiefs, streamlining training, fleet management, equipment, and distribution of officers around the county. The other cities would pay the sheriff’s office for service, but would likely pay less than what it would take to get their departments up to snuff.

Here is a paragraph on policing from the Better Together executive summary (page 7) that provides an idea of the costs of duplicative services:

POLICING – Today, there are 55 separate police departments covering St. Louis City and County. $468 million was spent on policing the area in 2015, or $355.20 per capita. Costs in cities such as Indianapolis, IN ($242.02 per capita) and Louisville, KY ($257.06 per capita) depict substantial savings in areas with one unified police department. Beyond the cost is the inconsistent quality of service. 75% of the departments in our region lack accreditation.

-Dissolve Byrnes Mill. This idea needs to happen on its own merits, since the city is a mess with a long line of problems with its police department. It is also questionable whether the city has sufficient revenue to stay solvent now that its ability to fund itself with traffic tickets has been curbed.

-Merge the libraries. In addition to the JeffCo library with its three branches (Arnold, Windsor, Northwest), there are libraries in Festus, DeSoto, Herculaneum, and Crystal City. The Herky library is open for very limited hours. The Festus and CC libraries are only two miles apart. DeSoto is looking to almost double the property tax for its library at the April 2 election. Hillsboro has been

Let’s bring all of these libraries under the county library system. That way they could share books, materials, and resources. We could close the Crystal City or Festus location and make the other ones branch libraries, all open to anyone in the county. Residents of Hillsboro have been trying on-and-off for almost 20 years to get their own branch. With this proposal, they would at least have access to libraries in nearby cities. This proposal would require getting rid of the library taxes in the cities that have them, but then extending the county library property tax to the entire county. A branch would probably be needed somewhere between Hillsboro and Cedar Hill to make it fair to residents in that part of the county.

Let me know what you think of this proposal, or if there are other functions that should be included in the merger.

Domestic Altercation at Home of Pevely Police Chief

26 Dec

According to a police report, the JeffCo sheriff’s department was called to the home of Pevely police chief Charles A. Moutray by his wife on the night of November 17, 2018 after a domestic altercation. The responding officer completed a probable cause statement against the chief for 4th degree domestic assault, but no arrest was made and the county prosecutor later decided not to press charges.

The physical incidents described in the report focused on Moutray’s wife’s attempts to view his cell phone. Moutray, who goes by Tony, is described to have flipped her over his body and off the bed onto the floor, where she struck her head. Later, Moutray is accused of breaking a door in order to unlock it and get to his wife, at which time he dragged her to the ground by her ponytail. He then left the residence before police arrived.

In Moutray’s statement, given to police at a nearby church parking lot, he claims his wife accidentally fell off the bed when reaching for his phone. He also claims he grabbed her by the neck in order to retrieve his phone so he could leave the house.

Domestic assault in the 4th degree is a Class A misdemeanor.

The city of Pevely does not appear to have taken any action in response to this incident, according to a review of minutes of closed sessions of board meetings.

Moutray was one of three Pevely officers involved in a 2016 arrest that led to an excessive force lawsuit and a $300,000 settlement by the city, which was finalized this past September.

 

April 2018 Election Recap

8 Apr

Let’s look at some of the headlines from the local elections held a few days ago.

Taxes: Six of nine tax measures succeeded in all.

The property tax for the county sheriff passed in a big way, with 64% of the vote. A sales tax hike for police passed in Hillsboro with 71% of the vote.

Byrnes Mill went 1 for 2 on tax hikes after going 0 for 3 last year (with two close losses). This time, a road maintenance tax won by 31 votes and a transportation tax failed by six votes. Will the city try the failed tax proposal again in a future election?

Antonia Fire’s 35-cent property tax proposal failed by 56-44%, after a 50-cent tax lost by the same margin in November. This time 2,100 people voted, versus 1,489 last time. Will the district try again in a future election? Maybe 25 cents next time?

A tax for a Hillsboro library failed for the third time in recent years, with 64% voting against a property tax proposal. Will they try again in a future election?

Despite all the turmoil in city government with firings, resignations, and lawsuits, DeSoto’s Prop P park and stormwater tax passed with 67% of the vote.

DeSoto: Some shake-up took place, as one city council member who was serving as mayor, Larry Sanders, was knocked off, and one school board member (recently fired as city manager) who was previously appointed to the board to fill a vacancy, David Dews, failed to win a full term.

Pevely: Big turnover, as three incumbents, all part of the faction that wanted to fire acting police chief Tony Moutray, were defeated. One, Rick Arnold, also facing an n-word controversy, lost to a write-in candidate.

Arnold: Two incumbent councilmen won close races. In ward 4, Gary Plunk beat Randy Hoselton by three votes. In Ward 3, Vern Sullivan beat Rod Mullins by 12 votes. Sullivan was assisted by a third candidate, William Denman, who received 62 votes, which would have been more than enough to put Mullins over the top. Denman also played spoiler in the mayor race last year, when incumbent Ron Counts beat councilman Phil Amato by 176 votes while Denman got 276 votes. It’s almost like Denman entered these races for that specific purpose…

Denman’s name has popped up in Arnold before in association with a shady political group called Citizens For a Better Arnold (CFABA) that used outside money to push candidates who supported red light cameras. Early on, CFABA supported Amato, but later on Counts moved over to the dark side, and Amato recently broke with the Counts regime (and with the Democratic party, he claims). It is all rather shadowy.

Also in Arnold, he who I like to call the Critchlow candidate, Jim Chellew, was predictably voted onto the Fox school board.

Pevely’s Side of Cop Beating Suit

12 Nov

I wrote here about a lawsuit filed against the Pevely police over alleged excessive force. The incident was from November 2016 and the suit was filed in January 2017. In it, a man (Robert Golden Jr) alleges he was beaten by Pevely police at a traffic stop for no good reason.

Having acquired the Pevely and Herculaneum police reports on this incident, I can provide the other side of the story. First, I stated in the previous post that dashcam video should be useful in adjudicating this claim. However, the police vehicle used in this incident (an unmarked one) does not have a dash camera. Several other Pevely cars also do not. The department is looking to phase out dash cameras and switch to body cameras for officers.

As the officers tell the story, Golden’s vehicle drew their attention because one of them recognized it from a brief high-speed chase a few months previously. The vehicle is distinctive in that it is a Chevy truck with a lift kit (as preferred by Florida-Georgia Line) and LED brow lighting. The officers turned to follow the vehicle and claimed that it crossed the center line four times and began to drive very slowly (35 in a 45). Golden states that he slowed down to let the close-following vehicle pass him. A stop was initiated.

Golden pulled over, but says that since he saw nothing indicating the people behind him were police, and he saw their guns drawn, he took off again. Pevely police indicate they were in an unmarked car equipped with lights and a siren that has been used for traffic stops in the past without incident. The police were also wearing plain clothes, as they were working that night on a Minor in Possession grant looking for underage drinkers. The police make no mention of their guns being drawn.

The officers state that Golden took off at high speed and continued to swerve. He proceeded into Herculaneum, where a Herky officer was waiting with lights flashing. Golden says he pulled over to seek assistance, but the Pevely officers say he pulled over abruptly in a way that had his vehicle pointing at the Herky car’s driver door, giving Golden “a distinct tactical advantage” and creating a “very grave and dangerous situation.” As such, the Herky officer drew his gun, a fact agreed to by all, and Pevely police initiated a “dynamic approach” to the vehicle.

Pevely police claim that Golden refused to exit the vehicle, so they yanked him down from his lifted cab to the ground and he sustained an abrasion on his cheek (this is the only injury visible on booking photos). They say he would not put his hands behind his back, so they forcibly pulled them back and cuffed him. This included an officer placing a knee in his back and placing a gun against his head, at which time his resistance stopped. [This is when Golden alleged that other abuse, including kicks and head slams into the ground, occurred.] Meanwhile other officers broke the passenger window after orders to open it were ignored, opened the door themselves, and removed three passengers without incident.

Two minor charges were all that Pevely filed as a result of this incident:

  • Failed to maintain a single lane of traffic
  • Failed to yield to emergency vehicle
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