Tensions remain high in Ferrelview with most recent contentious meeting

FERRELVIEW, Mo. — Last week’s chaotic Ferrelview Board of Trustees meeting continued a trend of unrest in the community dating back to last spring with elected officials and citizens voicing a variety of grievances.

As reported in last week’s Citizen, the approximately two-hour meeting held Tuesday, Aug. 8 featured the introduction of the Kansas City area state auditor manager Todd Schuler, who will be supervising the citizen-led petition audit of the village over the next several months. The performance audit will look at the city’s finances as well as its compliance with its own ordinances and state statutes. 

The small village of about 450 residents just east of KCI Airport has been in the headlines for the last year and a half for various reasons. 

Ferrelview Police Department chief Daniel Clayton’s policing methods have been questioned with multiple civil suits filed against him. Other citizens have defended his practices as helping to clean up an occasionally maligned community.

That discussion led to questions of the city’s finances, including the potential of overcollection for ticket revenues and court fees. The monthly board meetings have garnered increased attention and led to all manner of accusations, arguments and disruptive behavior.

This past April, three new trustees were elected to the board, ousting a portion of a previous regime that supported Clayton. Another member resigned with Phil Gilliam recently appointed and then sworn in, albeit with a disagreement over that process, as well.

Linda McCaslin, a former trustee, was even cited for disturbing the peace for her behavior during the July board meeting.

With the specter of crippling financial crisis looming with the pending audit, the village continues to conduct business while finding itself consistently embroiled in one controversy after another. Most recently, a flyer questioning the political motives of Theresa and Russell Wilson — husband and wife recently elected to the board — circulated around town, while accusations were leveled against Gilliam about forging documents related to his oath of office.

The meeting also included Bart Whorton, who was disqualified from the most recent election due to delinquent tax payments, being escorted off the property after a disagreement with trustee Melvin Rhodes, also elected this past April.

With several uniformed members of the Platte County Sheriff’s Office in attendance to try and keep the peace, last week’s board meeting involved a colorful discussion over a statutory rape charge pending against Jeffrey Gabbard — son of board chair Theresa Wilson.

A color flyer containing photos of Gabbard and a brief list of his criminal record was circulated around the village, questioning whether Wilson’s recent actions to reduce the Ferrelview Police Department to just one part-time officer might be connected to the case against her son.

Gabbard remains in custody in the Platte County Detention Center in Platte City in lieu of a $20,000 cash-only bond on a charge of second degree statutory rape for an incident on Oct. 25, 2015. He was recently indicted and awaits an upcoming trial.

Whorton, who later admitted to circulating the flyer, questioned the conduct of Rhodes, who he said came to his door at an unreasonable hour to ask about the alleged distribution of the flyer on private property. Whorton said he called 911 due to the incident, while Rhodes responded that Whorton had answered the door with a gun.

“I want to know why Melvin Rhodes has the right to come to my home threatening me and my children and pounding on my door at 7:30 in the morning,” Whorton said. 

Audience members chimed into the exchange with Theresa Wilson eventually calling for order and telling Rhodes, “Do not feed into him.”

This was the first exchange between Rhodes and Whorton during the course of the meeting with the flyer and the situation with Clayton and the upcoming rape trial popping back up several times. 

Clayton now serves as the only officer in the apparently bankrupt village. In June, city treasurer Mickey Vulgamott announced the village owes the state of Missouri more than $30,000 due to an overcollection of traffic fine and court fees from last year. In July, the board of trustees made moves to dissolve the village’s municipal court and let all police officers go, except for Clayton, whose position was reduced to 20 hours per week.

Additionally, at a closed session meeting held Tuesday, Aug. 1, and with Gilliam abstaining, the board agreed to send written notice to Clayton of a special meeting to be held Monday, Aug. 14 to discuss his removal from office. That meeting was later cancelled, but a new meeting date was set for Thursday, Aug. 17.

At the Tuesday, Aug. 8 meeting, audience members questioned the board’s treatment of Clayton with one resident telling the state auditor that Clayton was a “very compliant chief of police,” setting off a spontaneous round of applause for the chief, who was in attendance. 

“Chief Clayton is the police officer who arrested (Gabbard) on the statutory rape charge,” the flyer reads. “And now the Wilsons sit on the board of trustees and are working to eliminate our police protection in town? How can a conflict of interest be any clearer than this?”

Theresa Wilson denied any wrongdoing at the meeting, saying she made no excuses for her son’s behavior. Later, she told The Citizen that Clayton was not the arresting officer on the case.

However, court documents list Clayton as a witness for the prosecution in grand jury indictment papers filed in August 2016 in Platte County Circuit Court. The case is set for jury trial in October. A motion to reduce Gabbard’s $20,000 bond will also be heard before Judge James Van Amburg on Thursday, Aug. 17.

The parents of the alleged rape victim were present at the Aug. 8 meeting and also spoke out in defense of Clayton. 

“My daughter’s life was saved by him,” the victim’s mother said. “He searched for her for 12 hours with me. He searched in the woods for her body with me; he sat at the hospital for six hours with me — a total of 16 hours, 16 hours with me for my daughter who was raped.

“He deserves his job,” she said. “He is a very good man, and he needs to quit being put down.”

Theresa Wilson responded that Clayton was the “last one standing” from the village’s police department. 

Audience members said that the 20 hours a week Clayton is allowed to work are insufficient and accused the board of phasing him out by cutting his hours. There were also accusations of slandering Clayton.

“You’re trying to get rid of him for the case against your son,” the victim’s mother said. “Lower his credibility for the trial so that maybe his speech in the trial isn’t going to be credible therefore your son can return.”

Several other audience members chimed in, some defending Clayton and others accusing him of being a “crooked cop.” Eventually, Theresa Wilson called for order.

“I have no involvement with what my adult son does,” Theresa Wilson said, when the father of the victim also spoke up.

Rhodes raised his voice during the ensuing exchange between trustees and several audience members.

“Well, my daughter wouldn’t be sneaking out in the middle of the night,” Rhodes said.

Chaos erupted, with the parents, Whorton and others standing up in the back of the room to argue. Deputies waded into the situation and ordered calm with Whorton politely asked to leave and escorted out by deputies as he continued a heated exchange with Rhodes.

“I don’t know what happened,” Theresa Wilson said to the parents after order was restored. “I can’t say my son did it, and I can’t say my son didn’t do it.”

Near the start of the meeting, Rhodes was appointed police commissioner — typically an unpaid position wherein the trustee acts as a liaison between police and the board. Former trustee Tom Pesco voiced his opinion on this shortly before the meeting was adjourned. 

“We’ve had several police commissioners in this town and it has all not worked out well,” Pesco said. “My word of advice to you if you’re going to take this is to tread lightly, very lightly.”

Pesco also dressed down Rhodes for his outburst and said trustees should be mindful of oaths they took to properly represent the citizens.

“As elected officials, you’re supposed to be better than that,” Pesco said.

Clayton spoke up to apologize to Pesco and the citizens for his response time to recent calls.

“I think the citizens of Ferrelview should know because it is a safety issue that I can’t even operate the police vehicle because the tires have been vandalized,” Clayton said. “So the times I’ve not been here to help you guys out, I’ve responded to your address in my personal car.”

Theresa Wilson said the police car has been parked in the village garage and has not been damaged.

Audience members asked the Platte County Sheriff’s Office representatives present if they could determine who was telling the truth. Maj. Erik Holland said the sheriff’s department would handle calls from the village as they would any other and follow up with an investigation if an investigation was warranted. 

Clayton said the board of trustees would need to ask for an investigation.

“They don’t want an investigation to be done,” Clayton said.

In addition, Theresa Wilson made an accusation of Gilliam falsifying documents and illegally swearing himself in to his appointed position.

Gilliam was appointed to the board at the July 11 meeting on a 2-1 vote, which was initially labeled as tie at the meeting when Theresa Wilson cast a no vote along with her husband Russell Wilson. Diedre Carr and Rhodes voted yes. 

Ferrelview village attorney Scott Campbell later determined that due to a change in state statute, Theresa Wilson should not have cast her vote and so the appointment was approved. 

On Wednesday, July 19, Gilliam took an oath of office form to the Barry Road Citizen’s Bank and Trust branch where he said he recited his oath of office in front of notary Kamalijeet Kuar. Carr and Clayton also signed the form.

Theresa Wilson read aloud from a letter drafted by Kuar on Thursday, Aug. 3, stating that she was only authorized to verify his identity and notarize his signature. She also said there were no other signatures on the form when she notarized it, and she did not verify the witness signatures.

Gilliam said he signed the form and had it notarized before reciting the oath, although Kuar’s letter does not mention her giving him the oath.

Regardless, Ferrelview’s city clerk swore Gilliam in during a special meeting held Tuesday, Aug. 1 with Campbell saying that oath rendered the questioned document moot, even if proper protocol hadn’t been followed. Theresa Wilson still became combative about the process a week after Gilliam’s was sworn in at a village meeting.

Gilliam strongly denies any intentional action to be deceptive, despite Theresa Wilson’s claims that he “duped” the board.