FERRELVIEW, Mo. — The Ferrelview Board of Trustees meeting last week garnered area-wide attention on the local television news due to a controversial — and apparently unconstitutional — drug testing policy.
Three new members were elected to the five-member board of trustees in the April 4 election, and before they could take office last week, Russel Wilson, Theresa Wilson and Melvin Rhodes were asked to submit to a drug test. Two of the three new trustees refused the test and contacted their own attorney, who challenged the village’s policy.
The previous board approved the drug testing requirement last November.
During the Tuesday, April 11 board of trustees meeting, the new board members protested the policy in front television cameras. Their complaints were soon supported by the village’s own attorney.
Ferrelview village attorney Bill Quitmeier, ousted later in the meeting, issued a three-page opinion stating that the drug testing policy was unconstitutional. Quitmeier’s firm had taken over after former city attorney Scott Campbell resigned last summer.
Campbell was rehired at this month’s meeting.
“The board of trustees of the Village of Ferrelview asked for my legal opinion as to whether the newly elected trustees were disqualified from assuming their offices because they refused to submit to a drug test,” Quitmeier wrote in his report to the board.
His report was broken into three parts, but the overwhelming response was no.
“The Village of Ferrelview gains all of its authority and power from the Missouri legislature,” Quitmeier wrote. “Statutes provide for the creation of cities, towns and villages and they have no authority other than authorized by the state.”
Since the state sets the qualifications for election, the city has no authorization to change those qualifications.
Board of trustees candidate Bart Whorton, who lost his election bid and was then disqualified from the race due to failure to delinquent tax payments, questioned Quitmeier’s citation of a U.S. Supreme Court judgment in a 1997 case, Chandler vs. Miller. In the case, the State of Georgia attempted to require candidates to take a drug test as a qualifier for elected office.
The court struck down the Georgia law, citing protection against unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.
Whorton noted Ferrelview was in Missouri, not Georgia. Quitmeier said that while private sector officials and business owners could enact such policies, such requirements could not be enacted without probable cause within the public sector.
The unusual meeting for the small village located just east of KCI Airport continued once the Wilsons and Rhodes were sworn in with senior trustee Linda McCaslin quickly threatening a lawsuit against Russell Wilson over a storm-downed tree. McCaslin said she had received a call about the tree, which fell from the Wilsons’ property and had cleaned it up herself.
McCaslin presented the Wilsons with the bill, which they refused to pay.
“You can’t just take it upon yourself to handle it without even giving us a chance to deal with it and then try to get us to pay for it,” Russell Wilson said.
McCaslin tossed the papers across the open space between the two board tables to land in front of Russell Wilson. She said she would see him in court over it if necessary, and Russell Wilson agreed she indeed would.
Just prior to this exchange, tensions broke out in the audience between Whorton and Olathe, Kan. resident Derrick Hayes, who along with Tara Borron of Kansas City last year filed a civil suit against Ferrelview Police Department chief Clayton due to his aggressive ticketing practices. Other audience members joined in, some trying to calm tensions and others fanning the flames.
Whorton claimed Hayes threatened him, leading Ferrelview police officers, including Clayton himself, to step in to separate the verbal combatants.
Rhodes tried to adjourn the meeting before the public participation portion of the agenda but was stopped. Several attendees complained they couldn’t hear what the board was doing, and Whorton called for the immediate release of background checks on the new elected officials.
“Can we get a public disclosure of the background information of the people now on this board?” Whorton asked, asking for arrest records and educational backgrounds.
Theresa Wilson said she and Russell Wilson had passed numerous background checks to legally adopt their grandchildren. Whorton asked for that information to be disclosed and the Wilsons declined.
“Why would we do that?” Theresa Wilson asked.
“Because you have something to hide,” Whorton said. “I asked you that because obviously you have something to hide. If you don’t have the educational, professional and criminal background to support your position on this board then you don’t have the right to make decisions about our future.”
Whorton called for the information to be disclosed in a newspaper within 12 hours. This did not happen.