When I arrived back in Platte City, I drew the task of covering the Dearborn Board of Aldermen. Seemed simple enough, if not potentially boring and possibly uneventful. Then I learned a little about the history, both of the board and its relationship with this paper. Apparently, I’d drawn the task of giving this publication a new start with the citizens who were regulars at this monthly meeting.
I came to find out that they were occasionally referred to as the “Monday Night Fights,” a name which the former editor of this paper may or may not have coined.
Maybe not so simple.
Well, my time has been well spent on the second Monday of each month. I think I’ve only missed one, and I’ve used my regular trips to create an amicable working relationship with the board and audience members alike.
More goes on in Dearborn, or at least has in the past 20 months, than I would’ve thought.
And the board’s biggest challenge might still be approaching in the next couple of months. No one seems particularly worried about this potential problem. It hasn’t been addressed in the meetings. There’s no solid date for when this could become an issue.
I seem to be the only one who feels a sense of urgency.
The Dearborn Board of Aldermen continues to function with just three members plus mayor Jamie Morey. However, another term is set to expire with no incumbent running, and there’s still no candidate to replace the late Steve Buckler, who died while in office at the end of 2014.
Buckler’s seat remained vacant when no one filed for a one-year term last spring.
This hasn’t made any big headlines yet, but Dearborn currently has no one on the ballot for two open seats on its board for the upcoming April 5 general municipal election. I’ve wanted to make this at least a noticeable headline, but I haven’t been able to make any progress on exactly what the city plans to do to keep a functioning government.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
As a fourth class city, Dearborn should have four aldermen plus a mayor to vote and break a tie. However, a quorum requires at least three board members, meaning presently all members must be present to do anything besides pay the bills and keep the lights on.
This is further complicated in the absence of the mayor, which happened recently making Bob Bryan mayor pro-tem for a meeting that couldn’t do anything because that left only two aldermen to vote. Which as we just stated isn’t enough.
So governance isn’t always that simple.
Of course, Dearborn has struggled with candidates in the past. A lot. Sheri Kerns’ two-year term expired in 2015, and she served after being a write-in candidate.
Dearborn city attorney Dan Fowler did note to me recently that write-in candidates are a possibility, but I’d also counter it’s far from likely. No one was elected in that manner last year to Buckler’s spot, and even if there is some sort of grassroots campaign, that doesn’t guarantee the person would accept the spot.
So the mayor could appoint someone or someones to the board, as well.
But when does that need to occur? What if Buntin’s term ends with no write-in candidates, leaving just two board members and mayor Morey? Would the board with only two voting members be able to approve a mayoral appointment?
And even if they can, how long would that process take and would it muddy the board’s normal meetings and processes?
These answers have to be out there, but Fowler can’t research it without Morey’s approval. And Morey would need to approve compensation to dig up that info for me.
That’s not going to happen at this point.
I’ve also been given the Missouri Municipal League as a potential source for answers. I haven’t gotten that far, hoping that the city would be able to let me know what’s going to happen.
I’m still not there, and the election is now less than two months away.
I don’t live in Dearborn and have no vested interest in how its government functions. There are a lot of Dearborn residents that maybe should be concerned but aren’t at this point.
The board plans to discuss a resolution next month that would offer a stipend to board members — a proposed $80 per meeting based on recent conversations. The current members don’t necessarily want to do this for the cash but instead have recognized a need to incentivize the positions in hopes that more candidates — any candidates, really — will run for the public office.
The board is concerned; I’m concerned. Hopefully, some of the residents realize and understand the problem and help the city come to a solution.
I’d rather my questions not have to matter, so the Monday Night … err, meetings can continue as normal.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.