Ferrelview must find a way to move on from turmoil cycle

When I didn’t receive the response I anticipated from the Village of Ferrelview, I made sure to take note

All I wanted was the minutes from last month’s board of trustees meeting, which again featured plenty of action. We were unable to attend so I wanted the official record to help me verify what exactly happened.

Well, the village didn’t get back to me in a prompt manner, even after I reminded the clerk that the minutes didn’t need to be approved. They just needed the word “draft” stamped on the first account.

I found out why the request took longer than normal when I received two faxed copies and one hand-delivered copy last week. These aren’t your usual minutes.

The Village of Ferrelview continues to try and be as detailed as possible while embroiled in civic turmoil for the past 18 months. This nine-page account serves as more evidence that the tiny municipality of about 450 residents needs to move forward.

But how can that be done with a controversial police chief — currently suspended with pay for “failing to protect board members” at the last meeting and facing a state review of his policing license — and 3/5 of a board not interested in working with him?

There’s been almost no civil discourse on the matter since the first volatile meetings in the spring of 2016 until now. The supporters of Daniel Clayton continue to wage war with elected officials, who in turn fight with each other.

Much of this occurs with the public and increasing numbers of media watching. Frankly, it’s become an unfortunate running joke — more carnival sideshow than functioning government.

While it seems a crazy idea, I think it’s time for supporters of chief Clayton to convince him to move on from the situation. There would be risk of the department — reduced to one part-time officer for 20 hours a week over the summer — being shut down due to the repeated declaration of financial concerns given to the board.

To make change, the center of the controversy might need to be removed.

The angry citizens — and at times board members — need to start speaking through elections and not demanding answers at the board’s business meetings in a hostile manner. While some believe that’s the function of the meetings, it’s not.

Theresa Wilson and Russell Wilson were duly elected and joined Melvin Rhodes on the board as voices with concerns about finances and Clayton’s reported but unproven abuses of power. I can’t tell you why their supporters don’t show up to meetings, but the continued detractors of their political motivations continue to do so.

If the will of the voters truly aligns with Clayton’s method of policing, find the candidates that will support that vision.

The village treasurer recently produced a 2018 budget which doesn’t account for about $30,000 owed to the state in overcollection of traffic fines and revenues during Clayton’s tenure and no funds for an active citizen petition driven audit from the Missouri State Auditor’s Office. That’s the reasoning behind cutbacks in the police force given.

There’s some controversy about those finances with board member Phil Gilliam wondering what the $30,000 was spent on and whether the board kept proper records. Our research into the matter has shown spotty book keeping and a failure to send financial statements to the state, but who is at fault there — the prior board as some argue or the court clerk as others claim — remains to be determined in a factual manner.

As the detailed minutes from last month notate, Ferrelview treasurer Mickey Vulgamott told the board and audience, “At some point you have to trust your treasurer and the people signing the checks.”

At this point, the village has no functioning municipal court, recently dissolved, and no plans to establish a division in Platte County Circuit Court despite the ability to do so at limited cost — a cost likely to be offset by the fine revenue and potentially offering a small revenue stream as long as state law is followed. There’s questions about perceived lawlessness with Clayton limited to 20 hours a week and a lack of steady presence.

I get it. The true residents of Ferrelview enjoy living with the ability to make their own decisions and have their own police force. They don’t want to be a forgotten part of Kansas City or dependent on services from the Platte County Sheriff’s Office when responding to calls. But when a village can no longer financially provide the services needed, why keep going?

That remains the biggest question: can the village through the proper organization of finances get back to normal?

I don’t think that can happen with Clayton remaining with the police department. Supporters of safety in the community need to move past the current battle and look to achieve the ultimate goal in a different manner.

As long as the checks keep clearing the bank, the Village of Ferrelview could conceivably reestablish a full-time police force in the community. That won’t happen with this board nor with Clayton in charge.

The time for change has been long overdue, and citizens need to continue to be diligent but find a way to demand change through representation rather than through civil conflict.

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at editor@plattecountycitizen.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.