Tag Archives: discrimination

May Legislative Update

8 May
  • Sen. Gary Romine (R, 3rd district, Farmington) has been under heavy criticism for his role sponsoring SB43, a bill to change the legal standard in discrimination lawsuits from “contributing factor” to “motivating factor” (a higher bar to clear). This would prevent frivolous suits like the one filed by Arnold police chief Bob Shockey. Romine is under fire because a business he owns is being sued for discrimination. But this law would even not affect his case; since the suit is already in progress, it would proceed under the current rules. And people who are actually discriminated against can still win lawsuits under SB43, their claims just have to have some merit to them. Remember how Dianne Critchlow has threatened to sue the Fox district now that feckless prosecutors have let her off the hook? I guarantee her suit will include a baseless gender discrimination claim if it is filed under the current standard. As a business owner, Romine knows about the issues Missouri has with frivolous lawsuits, and is trying to address the problem. The House would need to approve this bill this week in order to send it to the governor.

Romine: “Rather than seeing this bill for what it is — one of the most significant economic development measures to come along in years — the media has been more interested in eliciting the opinions of trial attorneys, SB 43’s only real opposition and a group of people who generally stand to lose from any significant progress on the tort reform front.”

  • Sen. Paul Wieland (R, 22nd, Imperial) briefly held up the passage of HB 130, the bill to allow rideshare services like Uber to operate statewide. He thought, misguidedly in my opinion, that Uber drivers would drop their personal auto insurance since Uber provides coverage while you are working. He had other concerns as well. But three weeks later, Wieland’s concerns were satisfied and the bill was passed and signed into law.

“I just wanted to make sure we protect the public and we keep the number of uninsured motorists to a minimum and I believe this bill will do that,” Wieland told The Missouri Times Thursday.

  • Rep. Rob Vescovo (R, 112th, Arnold) was the House sponsor of SB 182, which eliminates project labor agreements in public construction projects. This bill, which has passed both houses, ends requirements that non-union contractors pay union wages and stops local governments from giving preferential treatment to union contractors. This bill will reduce the cost to taxpayers of public projects. Reps. Vescovo, Shaul, and John McCaherty (R, 97th, High Ridge) voted yes; Reps. Elaine Gannon (R, 115th, DeSoto), Becky Ruth (R, 114th, Festus), and Ben Harris (D, 118th, Hillsboro) voted no; and Roden voted present (weak).

“Some would say it’s an anti-union legislation, and I disagree,” Vescovo said after the House adjourned for the week. “I would say it’s pro-worker and it allows the other 86 percent of the workforce to bid on projects and work on projects without being signatory. That’s very important.”

  • Rep. Dan Shaul (R, 113th, Imperial) ticked off teachers, according to the Leader,  with his vote for HB634, which would allow for the expansion of charter schools in the state. Shaul also serves on the Windsor school board. Charters currently exist only in St. Louis and Kansas City. Teachers claimed Shaul has a conflict of interest, which I don’t buy. Some teachers turned their back on Shaul as he was sworn in for another term at the April 12 board meeting, which is quite juvenile. It doesn’t look like this bill will get a Senate vote. McCaherty, Roden, and Vescovo also voted yes on this bill.

“I would disagree with the assumption that my vote on HB 634 was a conflict of interest,” Shaul said. “The vote I took on 634 was to ensure that all kids throughout the state of Missouri have the same opportunity that kids (who) go to Windsor have.”

  • Along with SB43, other much-needed legal reforms have been advancing through the legislature, and our county reps have voted for them along party lines. However, Rep. Shane Roden (R, 111th, Cedar Hill) voted no on HB460, which would limit out-of-state plaintiffs who bring their cases in St. Louis in hopes of winning big verdicts. This is why you hear all those ads from lawyers about talcum powder and cancer on the radio or see them on billboards. Those plaintiffs don’t even live here.
  • Sen. Romine took to the Senate floor during debate over the budget to offer an amendment to fully fund the state’s foundation formula for education for the first time. It was a bit unusual to do this on the floor after the Appropriations Committee already put the budget bill together, and it caused a split between Senate leadership and some GOP senators as the amendment passed. Romine voted yes on this, Wieland voted no. The House also voted to fully fund the formula.
  • The issue of whether to join a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) has been roiling county government here for months, but such a plan is also advancing at the legislature, and if it passes it would make the JeffCo debate moot. The House and Senate will be going to a conference committee to iron out their differences, but with only one week left, it seems unlikely this will get done. In the House, representatives McCaherty, Roden, and Vescovo voted no on the PDMP bill, HB 90, as did Sen. Wieland.
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Bills Sponsored by JeffCo Senators

16 Jan

After checking up on Jefferson County’s state representatives in my last post, I will now examine what bills our state senators have put forth in this new legislative session.

Gary Romine, R, 3rd district, Farmington – Romine’s district covers the southern part of the county, roughly south of a line from Dittmer to Festus (map here). The district also covers Iron, Reynolds, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, and Washington counties. He has a lot of bills. I will hit the highlights.

One bill of Romine’s I will call the Bob Shockey bill. Here’s a description:

Currently, under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), a practice is unlawful when the protected trait is a contributing factor in the decision to discriminate. This act changes that standard to a motivating factor standard. The plaintiffs in employment and age discrimination cases have the burden of proving these standards.

Recall that Arnold police chief Bob Shockey sued the city back in 2013. His goals were to 1) damage the mayoral campaigns of incumbent Ron Counts’ opponents, and 2) make some money for himself. He claimed that he was being discriminated against, and listed all the ways he was supposedly being bullied. But to sue for discrimination you have to be part of a protected class, and the only one Shockey qualifies for was being over age 40, so he tacked that claim onto his suit with no evidence that it was the reason for his treatment.

Anyway, under Romine’s bill, Shockey would have to prove that his age was the motivating factor for his treatment (not incompetence). That is a much higher legal bar, I submit that Shockey would not have gotten his bogus $70,000 settlement had this law been in affect three years ago. This is not to say that I think Shockey had anything to do with Romine’s interest in this issue.

Romine also has a bill regarding high school equivalency degree exams that appears to be similar to what Rep. Gannon proposed over in the House. It would waive the test-taking fee for first-timers. He has another bill just like Gannon’s, this one urging the creation of the Joachim Creek Joint Task Force to fight flooding in DeSoto.

Another bill, reported here, would rename the new Jay Nixon State Park. Romine doesn’t like Nixon allowing a park to be named after himself, and he think the money to buy the park, which was intended for lead belt restoration and remediation, was misused.

Other bills of Romine’s eliminate property taxes for disabled veterans, modify the crime of animal trespass, prohibit two-way communications devices in jails, change bingo regulations, modify titling for junk cars, and modify employer arbitration agreements.

romine

Romine family at inauguration

Paul Wieland, R, 22nd district, Imperial – Wieland covers the bulk of Jefferson County, and no other counties. One of his bills would allow a pregnant woman to enroll in a health insurance program at any time, not just during open enrollment periods. Another bill would allow life insurance companies to exclude coverage for suicide within the first year after the plan was issued. Wieland is an insurance agent.

Another bill repeals provisions of law that require the licensing and taxation of peddlers by counties.

Finally, Wieland is again proposing to repeal the death penalty in Missouri, in line with his Catholic pro-life views. He has tried this the past two years. Last year this bill made it out of committee but did not get a vote on the Senate floor.

wieland

Wieland family at inauguration

Setback in Shockey’s Quest for Payday

10 Mar

Arnold police chief and former acting city administrator Robert Shockey has a lawsuit pending against the city of Arnold, former councilwoman Doris Borgelt, and councilman Ken Moss. He is looking to follow Parks and Recreation director Susie Boone’s pathway to a payout with a side of extra job security, although Shockey, not having an amenable city administrator (namely, himself) in place, had to file a lawsuit.

But Shockey has received a bit of a setback in court. Two of the four counts of his lawsuit were dismissed on Wednesday, according to Casenet. The counts of the suit are as follows:

  1. Age Discrimination
  2. MHRA – Retaliation
  3. Negligent Supervision (dismissed)
  4. Negligent Training (dismissed)

This ruling appears to be a victory for the city of Arnold, as the dismissed counts were specifically against the city. The city is still a party to the first two counts, but this ruling helps the city’s case. Of course, I think it’s safe to say that the regime in Arnold wants to see Shockey get some money, since he’s one of their cronies. Also, a payout for Shockey would reflect poorly on Borgelt and Moss (conveniently during election season). And a settlement may occur. Casenet says a settlement conference is scheduled for March 18 (three weeks before election day). The threat from the city’s insurer, MIRMA, that its contribution to a payout is limited if the suit proceeds against their advice has in the past been enough to motivate an agreement.

Arnold Settles Ott Case for $450k

24 May

At long last, we know how much Arnold settled the Alicia Ott suit for – $450,000. Ott was the Arnold police officer who alleged sexual harassment by a fellow officer and wrongful termination by Chief Bob Shockey.

The settlement was approved by the city council on April 18 and finalized three days ago. That said, it is interesting that this news comes out Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. Are they trying to bury this news? I don’t think it works that way in local government.

The city denies any liability, insists it had a strong case, and says that it was the insurance company’s idea to settle. City Attorney Bob Sweeney said to KMOV, “It would have been fiscally irresponsible not to accept the settlement.” This, of course, is the first time he has shown any concern for fiscal responsibility. He also said, “Do you ever hear those stories about animals that get caught in steel taps and they gnaw their own limbs off? That’s what it feels like [to settle this case].” This reminds me of that shrimpy, cocky kid on the schoolyard who hides behind his large, muscular friend and yells “I’m gonna kick your ass!” It is easy to talk this way after you settle a case, and any threat of losing is eliminated.

A curious note from Casenet from March 18 is as follows:

Plaintiff’s motion for Sanctions is called and heard.  Defendant City of Arnold is ordered to produce documents in response to Request Nos 9 and 10 of Plaintiff’s Third Request for Production within 10 days of the date of this order.  The Court sustains Defendant’s objections to Request Nos. 7 and 8 of Plaintiff’s Third Request for Production.  With regard to Request Nos. 1 through 6, Plaintiff will provide supporting case law to the Court and Defendant will have 48 hours to submit a response.  Defendant City of Arnold is order to pay Plaintiff attorneys’ fees in the amount of $871.50 within 10 days of the date of this Order. SO ORDERED:  NATHAN B. STEWART, CIRCUIT JUDGE DIV. THREE

This is after Ott’s lawyer asked several times for the court to compel Arnold to produce certain documents. What was Sweeney hiding here? These don’t seem to be the actions of someone with a great case. Note that the date of the above docket entry was about two weeks before the recent municipal election. Was someone trying to run out the clock, to get past election day before settling this case without releasing anything too damaging?

Will there be any repercussions to this settlement at the Arnold Police Department? Doesn’t look like it. Shockey is still the chief, and alleged harasser Owen Conarow is still employed by the city. He was supposedly “disciplined” at some point. Recall that Shockey angrily said in March that “to convict my officers before anything is done is unacceptable.” Well, something’s been done. Can we “convict” now?

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