Former Tracy Mayor — and current Alderman — Rita Rhoads’ appeal of Platte County Circuit Court Judge Lee Hull’s ruling of her removal from office last July was affirmed Tuesday in unanimous fashion by the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District.
In its seven-page ruling, the appellate court said that Hull was correct in ruling that Rhoads violated her official duties by hiring her son-in-law to perform work for the City of Tracy in violation of the nepotism clause found in article VII, section 6 of the Missouri Constitution, and therefore, ordered her removed from office. The appellate court also refuted Rhoads’ assertion that because her son-in-law was acting as an independent contractor, she did not appoint her son-in-law to “employment” with the City of Tracy.
“We now know what the law is on that issue and it will provide guidance in the future,” Rhoads’ attorney, Keith Hicklin said. “Before, what we had was one attorney general’s opinion that it was not a violation of the law.”
Rhoads said the ruling would not deter her from continued service to the City of Tracy.
“I’ve been on the Board for going on 21 years now,” Rhoads said Tuesday evening. “This isn’t going to stop me from serving and maybe running for mayor again next year. I’ve put in a lot of time over the years and given back a lot of my $20 or $50 a month that I’ve been paid. I love the City of Tracy.”
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd filed a Petition in Quo Warranto July 9, 2012 to oust Rhoads from office. The state alleged Rhoads violated her official duties by hiring her son-in-law to perform work for the City of Tracy in violation of the nepotism clause of the Missouri Constitution, and therefore, requested that Rhoads be removed from her office as Mayor of Tracy.
Hull ruled July 13, 2012 that Rhoads violated the Missouri Constitution by hiring her son-in-law, Matthew Spores, in her capacity as mayor to fix a City sign damaged by a drunk driver in June 2012 and paying him $100 out of the City’s general fund for the work.