Ferrelview police chief suspended after 'emergency' closed meeting

Emotions again spilled over at the latest contentious Ferrelview Board of Trustees meeting last week.

In the fallout, the regular session adjourned early due to hostility between trustees and angered crowd members and among trustees themselves. The board reconvened later and suspended controversial police chief Daniel Clayton and the city attorney resigned the following day. Village officials declined to grant a request for minutes and/or recordings from the original meeting under Missouri’s Sunshine Law to help clarify the proceedings.

However, Ferrelview trustee Phil Gilliam said a disagreement over enforcement of municipal codes eventually led to a somewhat chaotic scene inside city hall on Tuesday, Nov. 14.

This past summer, trustees voted to disband Ferrelview’s municipal court and then reduced the police force to just Clayton, who was also limited to part-time hours. He has since stopped initiating traffic stops because there is no real mechanism to write tickets for local violations.

At Tuesday’s meeting, board members suggested vetting the option of moving municipal violations to Platte County Circuit Court, a transfer of duties the City of Platte City decided to use when eliminating its municipal court.

Gilliam and board chairman Theresa Wilson exchanged arguments as tensions built with many vocal supporters of Clayton in the audience. Eventually, citizens moved toward the front tables where village officials sit with Wilson asking for a motion to adjourn the meeting early.

According to a draft of minutes posted at Ferrelview’s city hall, trustees Theresa Wilson, Russell Wilson and Melvin Rhodes reconvened for an emergency meeting along with city clerk Patsy Murray at 8:28 p.m. Gilliam did not attend due to objection from village attorney Scott Campbell about the unposted meeting, and the minutes state that trustee Diedre Carr did not respond to the emergency meeting notice.

The three trustees voted to go into closed session to discuss personnel matters, according to the minutes, and Russell Wilson made a motion to indefinitely suspend Clayton with pay. He would also be asked to return all police equipment and his badge, uniform and body camera with footage from the meeting.

According to the minutes, the emergency meeting was held to discuss safety issues surrounding “the refusal of the police chief Daniel Claytonto ensure the immediate safety of the board members due to the aggressive actions of various citizens in attendance at the regular meeting.” Unlike recent meetings, no Platte County Sheriff’s Office deputies were present to help keep peace during disagreements, and Clayton was the only member of law enforcement present when the proceedings escalated.

Rhodes seconded Russell Wilson’s motion, and the board passed the motion for suspension with a 3-0 vote and Gilliam and Carr absent.

Campbell submitted a one-sentence letter of resignation to the board Wednesday morning but did not give a reason for his decision. Previously, he resigned as Ferrelview attorney in the summer of 2016 with trustees rehiring him this past April.

Gilliam has made contact with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office about the second closed session meeting, which he believes violated Missouri’s Sunshine Law. According to reports, Wilson said the emergency meeting was held with just cause due to the “safety issues” despite the apparent reservations of the now-resigned village attorney.

Clayton’s suspension brings at least a temporary conclusion to his tenure with the village.

In the summer of 2016, concerns were brought to the board of trustees over alleged excessive use of force and intimidation. A review of records showed a large increase in municipal citations issued since Clayton’s hire in July of 2015, although many supporters believed he was simply working to eliminate criminal issues often associated with the small village of about 450 residents located east of KCI Airport.

This led to discussion of financial issues and the possibility of state statute violations for excess revenue collected from traffic citations and court fees.

In the March municipal election, Theresa Wilson and Russell Wilson successfully ran for spots on the board of trustees, ousting former chairman Steve Carr and temporary appointee Brooks Moseley. This led to a switch in the municipal government’s direction, and in anticipation of a damning audit from the Missouri Auditor’s Office, the board reduced the police department staffing and dissolved the municipal court over the summer.

Theresa Wilson headed up the citizen-led petition audit prior to her election, and the investigation currently under way will come at Ferrelview’s expense, adding to the reported dire financial issues. In July, village treasurer Mickey Vulgamott reported the village owed the state more than $30,000 due to an overcollection of traffic fines and court fees, which she said the previous board already spent.

In August, the board voted to send written 10-day notice to Clayton to discuss his removal from office but later pushed the deadline back to September to allow him the chance to arrange legal counsel. During the 30-day extension, documents involving a complaint against Clayton with the Missouri Department of Public Safety became public, showing he faces a hearing that could result in loss of his peace officer license or other discipline if found guilty of assault and/or sexual abuse alleged in the complaint.

Clayton’s hearing on the matter is scheduled for February of 2018.

Supporters have claimed all measures taken against Clayton, including this suspension, have been retaliatory in nature. With limited patrol hours each week, some residents have worried about the “lawless” nature of the village now reliant upon the sheriff’s office to handle most emergency situations.