FERRELVIEW, Mo. — Change came to the Ferrelview Board of Trustees in last week’s municipal election and three newcomers took their place at a tumultuous and eventful meeting held Tuesday, April 11.
Theresa Wilson and Russell Wilson, a married couple, ousted current board chair Steven Carr when the vote totals came in Tuesday, April 4. Russell Wilson received 38 votes, Theresa Wilson 36 and Carr just 30. The Wilsons both earned two-year seats on the board with Frank Baumann — the other incumbent not seeking re-election.
A one-year seat was also up for grabs, with the initial winner projected to be appointed incumbent Brooks Moseley, who received 22 votes to opponent Bart Whorton’s 11.
On March 10, the Platte County Board of Elections received a letter from the Missouri Department of Revenue stating Whorton was not in compliance with state statute in regards to delinquent tax payments. The situation hadn’t been rectified by the election, so Whorton’s candidacy was disqualified.
The change came when the 27 write-in votes were tallied. Registered write-in candidate Melvin Rhodes received 27 votes, besting Moseley’s 22 votes. Board members Deirdre Carr — Steven Carr’s wife — and Linda McCaslin remain on the board with the three newcomers, creating a potential volatile atmosphere for the village’s government.
Rhodes and the Wilsons were sworn in April 11 — twice — but not before the previous board had a few parting statements.
“I tried the best I could for six years,” said outgoing chair Steven Carr. “It’s been an uphill climb.”
Audience members questioned if the incoming officeholders would be required to complete a drug test before taking office. Ferrelview Village attorney Bill Quitmeier, whose firm was hired last year after former city attorney Scott Campbell resigned last June, said Missouri statute prohibited such actions.
Quitmeier’s three-page legal opinion led to a back-and-forth between Whorton and the village lawyer with Whorton questioning Quitmeier’s citation of Supreme Court rulings.
“We’re going to follow the law and that’s what we’re going to do now,” Steven Carr said, ending the discussion and calling for the new elected officials to be sworn in. “Good luck and God help you all,” he added, leaving the table.
Rhodes and the Wilsons said Ferrelview city clerk Patsy Murray sore them in earlier in the day, but after protests from the audience Quitmeier said it wouldn’t hurt to do it again.
Rhodes was selected as the temporary chair, with the audience briefly erupting into chaos when two audience members became combative and were separated by Ferrelview Police Department officers, including chief Daniel Clayton.
The new board members declined to make commission appointments until they could become familiar with the city government. Quitmeier suggested they look into attending elected official training from the Missouri Municipal League.
Temporary appointments were made with Murray re-appointed as city clerk and municipal court clerk Mickey Vulgamott re-appointed to that post and also to the post of temporary city treasurer.
This move was opposed by the senior board members, and members of the audience, who yelled “cronyism” from their seats. Village treasurer Dora Morgan resigned last July with Penny Sutter serving as interim treasurer.
“I don’t think she should hold two offices,” McCaslin said of Vulgamott’s dual duty assignment.
Russell Wilson said it would only be for a month or so, or until the board could discuss the situation. Such discussions would need to take place during a closed session meeting, Quitmeier said, as they concern personnel matters.
Vulgamott’s appointment was approved on a split vote, as was the apparent re-hire of former village attorney Scott Campbell, with Carr and McCaslin voting no both times. Quitmeier left the meeting shortly after with Whorton calling for the immediate and public release of background check information on the new elected officials.
Rhodes attempted to adjourn the meeting several times, but was finally able to do so with McCaslin voting no.
Very little city business was discussed, and Clayton, the controversial police chief, said he had no police report that night. He has been the subject of accusations of misconduct and harassment since his hire in July 2015 — a tenure marked by increased filings of municipal citations, according to research The Citizen did last summer.
Last week, The Citizen also reported that Clayton was awarded more than $300,000 in damages in a wrongful termination suit he filed against the City of Mosby (Mo.). He claimed he was fired on the basis of his race, and a Clay County jury agreed.
Despite complaints made against him in Ferrelview, Clayton has said he’s just doing his job and is making an effort to clean up the small village. The previous board pledged support for him but early indications show the three new board members might have a differing opinion on how Clayton has gone about his duties.
Incoming board member Theresa Wilson initiated the successful citizen petition to the Missouri State Auditor’s office for an investigation into the city’s financial processes and the overall transparency of the board.
Her broader concerns with the board include a $17 monthly fee for Kansas City water meters installed within the village, even though she alleges that the units were “bought and paid for before they were ever installed,” and a half-cent sales tax increase proposed multiple years ago (that failed via a village-wide vote) but is allegedly being collected by the board.