Tag Archives: port

Local Lawyer and GOP Fixture Involved in Three Big Lawsuits

23 Aug

Update 10-14: Good has withdrawn from the opioid case, which was transferred to federal court.

Derrick Good is a JeffCo lawyer with the Thurman law firm in Hillsboro and a fixture on the county GOP Central Committee, whose revenge play I wrote about recently. He is a friend of county executive Ken Waller, who appointed Good to seats on the Hillsboro school board and the county Port Authority. Good has donated $500 to Waller during the current election cycle, and the Leader in 2016 quoted Waller saying that Good was one of his campaign managers. Good is currently involved as an attorney in three major lawsuits that I would like to outline today.

Hillsboro Sand Mine

In April 2018, a proposal to build a sand mine near Hillsboro caused great alarm among area residents, who were concerned about the impact of the 259-acre project on the largely residential area. Opposition quickly mobilized, packing the county planning and zoning hearing on the project. The P&Z board voted 7-0 in June to recommend denial of rezoning for the project. At another packed meeting, the county council voted 6-0 to deny the proposal.

But now, the companies behind the sand mine are suing the county (case 18JE-CC00529, St. Peter Sand Company et al vs. JeffCo). The lawsuit is pursuant to the companies’ rights under Chapter 536 of state law, which allows for judicial review of decisions like this one. The companies can argue that the county’s denial of the project was arbitrary and not based on solid evidence. I wrote here about a lawsuit in which a man sued the county successfully, partially on Chapter 536 grounds, after his proposal to build a mini-storage and boat/RV storage facility was denied. The judge ordered the county to approve the zoning changes for the project. So the possibility exists that the sand mine could be approved by the judge and go forward despite huge public opposition.

Good is the sole attorney for the companies bringing this lawsuit. As I mentioned above, he serves on the county Port Authority, as president no less. The sand from this mine, intended for use in fracking as part of oil and gas drilling, would almost certainly be shipped through the port on its way to the oil and gas fields. I think that’s an interesting connection.

Multi-County Opioid Lawsuit

Jefferson County joined a lawsuit against 49 opioid manufacturers and distributors this month, along with nine other counties, accusing them of causing the opioid crisis and demanding money to pay for the costs of battling it (case 1822-CC10883, JeffCo et al vs. Purdue Pharma et al). The law firm leading the suit – Carey, Danis, and Lowe out of Clayton – says they approached Good about having JeffCo participate because they saw him in court one day and were impressed. I suspect, though, that they knew he had the right political connections.

So Good set up a meeting between Waller and the law firm, as Waller tells the Leader. Waller then decided on his own accord, without consulting the county council, that the county would join the lawsuit. Now Good stands to receive attorney fees if the lawsuit is successful. It is likely that lots of money will be handed over here, either by verdict or settlement, so Waller’s unilateral decision stands to be profitable for Good.

Politician Pay Lawsuit

I have written about this one extensively (case 16JE-CC00004, King vs JeffCo). Good was co-chairman of the charter committee that wrote the county charter and presented it to voters in 2008, ushering in our current form of government. But on the last day of 2015, Good filed a lawsuit against the county on behalf of former Democrat elected official Bruce King, saying that the charter was unclear and being interpreted incorrectly in a way that caused county elected officials to be underpaid and asking for that to be remedied retroactively. A few weeks later the plaintiff added another attorney, Kevin Roberts of the Roberts Wooten Zimmer firm in Hillsboro. The two are naturally seeking attorneys’ fees as part of the suit.

In a Leader article at the time, King says the suit was not his idea, and that he was recruited by Good and Roberts to be the named plaintiff.  A couple of weeks after the suit was filed, a flood of local officials, including Waller, joined the quest for additional salary and benefits. The suit could cost the county $1.2 million dollars in extra pay if successful.

While Waller and other elected officials have failed to coherently defend the lawsuit when confronted on camera by Fox 2’s Elliott Davis, Good has put forward at least a plausible defense of the lawsuit online. It is long, and you can read it here. An excerpt:

Despite discussions and attempts to reach a resolution, nothing happened. There is a simple question that needs an answer, what does the language mean. I as a Charter Commission member believe that the language was written as it is to make sure our officeholders did not take a pay cut, were paid at least what someone in an equivalent office in a first class non-charter county made. However, in order to keep salaries from running away we capped it at no greater than 10% more than the equivalent position. There was a desire to pay those positions well so that quality people would be attracted to running.

 

 

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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.

Nixon Withholds Port Cash

31 Mar

UPDATE: Port money has been released, 4/3/15.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is once again withholding allocated money from the Jefferson County Port, to the tune of $500,000. Nixon did this in 2013, as well, and I theorized that it was to pressure local representatives to vote not to override his veto of a tax cut bill.

This time, there appears to be no specific rhyme or reason for withholding the port money. This is part of the $480 million or so that Nixon is withholding over concerns about a balanced budget. One would think, perhaps, that Nixon would cut his home county a little slack, but I guess not.

Seven JeffCo legislators signed a letter from Rep. Becky Ruth to the governor on this topic:

This week, I drafted a letter to Governor Nixon requesting that he release the funds being withheld for our ports. Seven legislators from Jefferson County signed the letter and I personally hand delivered it to the Governor’s office. As you are aware, Jefferson County has made progress in the development of the Jefferson County Port in Herculaneum, but it is only a beginning and will take more funds to fully complete this project. We hope that the Governor will see that this is a vital economic development project that affects not just Herculaneum, but will affect our entire county and state. The amount of jobs and economic growth that the Jefferson County Port will bring is substantial and impactful. The development of our ports will further position our state to compete on a global level in terms of industry and agriculture.

In addition, all seven members of the Jefferson County Council signed a letter to the governor:

From the Jefferson Countian

From the Jefferson Countian

Will these letters help? Will Nixon show some love to the county he once represented in the state Senate? The money may come out eventually, but I doubt he will do us any favors.

HB253 and Nixon’s Port Ploy

12 Aug

Two JeffCo legislators, Elaine Gannon (R – 115) and Jeff Roorda (D – 113) are at the center of the move to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of the tax cut bill, HB 253, that the legislature passed this session. Gannon was one of three Republicans to vote against it, and Roorda was one of three Democrats to vote for it. Both of their votes are up in the air right now as the veto session approaches (it begins September 11).

One major legislative accomplishment of local interest this session was the allocation of $421,667 for a Jefferson County port. This allocation passed despite ‘no’ votes from all JeffCo Dems (they didn’t like the 8-month Dept. of Revenue funding that was part of the same bill). Now, though, this money is on hold. Nixon froze $400 million of spending for the (bogus, IMO) reason that the tax cut, if it becomes law, will drain state coffers. This is despite the fact that the tax cut would be phased in in a manner dependent on state revenues. Included in this $400 million is the money for the JeffCo port.

One has to wonder if this particular funding item was frozen in order to encourage Gannon and Roorda to vote no on the tax override. This move would allow them to say, “I voted against the tax cut to save the port money,” which might be a powerful argument. It would be interesting to see if spending that is important to Reps. Hodges and Schieffer (the other two Dems to vote for the cut) or Reps. Hampton and Fowler (the other two GOPers to vote no) was included in the freeze.

One must ask though, why has Nixon been so cavalier about issues important to his home county? He vetoed the bill protecting Doe Run from excessive liability and allow it to build a new facility. He was also criticized for his lack of response to flooding this spring in his home town of De Soto. It would seem that the potential benefits of having a governor from our county have not been realized.

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