Admittedly, it would be easy to celebrate and gloat a little bit, but I won’t.
I do feel a bit vindicated over what ended up being exhaustive work for former Citizen reporter and all-around journalism prodigy Brent Rosenauer and myself last year. We were right to address the problems in the Village of Ferrelview, and we probably deserved better answers.
In the end, we probably won’t know exactly what caused the situation, but I have a few guesses.
The village’s board of trustees mostly shied away from answering our questions. I was even threatened with a harassment lawsuit if I called a certain cell phone number one more time in search of answers.
Our requests for public documents were met with skepticism and a sense of distrust, but we kept trying to do our job. After all, issues to citizens in Platte County are important, no matter how small the municipality.
The conclusion we came to last summer was that Ferrelview faced serious questions about its financial future. In brevity, officials seemed to indicate the village would just remit any excess collections of traffic fines and court costs to the state.
Easy. No violation.
I never felt convinced it would be that simple. Based on the reporting in this week’s issue, starting on page 1, it’s not that simple, and the small village — located just off Interstate 435 east of KCI Airport — now faces an uncertain future.
Ferrelview residents recently voted into office three new trustees to the board. A fourth spot remains open after another holdover resigned a position.
What the former leaders owe the citizens of Ferrelview would be an explanation and maybe an apology.
Those who claimed to be doing what was right for the village might have been doing just the opposite. Without having better answers, the officials chose to remain ignorant to the plight either by denying any potential problem existed or simply by coming up with faulty numbers that weren’t backed by reality.
Now, Ferrelview owes a bill of more than $30,000 to the state in excess revenues. Another estimated $30,000 will be due for an audit from the Missouri State Auditor’s office — a probe set to be conducted after citizens demanded to know more when they felt sufficient transparency wasn’t being given from the board of trustees.
Based on the current budget and the limitations on how much operating revenue can come from traffic fines and court fees, the Village of Ferrelview is essentially bankrupt and in danger of ceasing to exist. There could be avenues to remain self-sufficient and pay back the bill, but we will likely know more when the audit results become official.
That could certainly be a while with the state yet to officially announce the audit.
Regardless of where you stood on the conduct of Ferrelview’s chief of police, these latest reports have to raise concerns. Daniel Clayton may very well have been working to clean up the village and its image, doing so with an either intentional or unintentional intimidating presence.
The concerns come from a government that should have known the danger to the village due to the amount of revenue from the increase in tickets. At the very least, the excess money would need to go back to the state, and there needed to be a plan to maintain a practical budget.
There wasn’t a plan, and now there may not be a Ferrelview to save for very much longer.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.