A perceived legal obstacle was removed by the Louisiana City Council at its Monday March 11 meeting with passage of an ordinance that will allow city employee James Minor to run for the board.
Shortly after Minor filed to run against Bart Niedner for the Ward 3 city council spot in the Tuesday, April 2 election, city officials said a long-standing ordinance might cause legal problems down the road.
The old ordinance prohibited city council members and employees from mingling duties. It was feared it could be construed to conflict with state law that city officials said prohibits city workers from running for office.
The issue was clouded when a Missouri Secretary of State’s spokesman told the Press-Journal that no state election law would prohibit Minor from running.
Councilman Chuck Hoffman later said he felt Missouri Ethics Commission rules would not allow Minor to run because of potential conflicts of interest.
At the March 11 council meeting, he reiterated his concern and said he was worried the council might eventually “end up with crap on our nose.”
City Attorney Robert Rapp said the ethics commission simply does not allow city council members to have contracts or provide services with the city they serve that exceed $500 per instance or $5,000 annually. Rapp added that if Minor does not get elected, the question would become moot.
Hoffman was the only no vote against the new ordinance. Council members Russell Stephens, Ann Handford, Don Oakley, Larry White, Monroe Elliott and Jim Wood all voted for it.
The discussion was punctuated with a loud exchange between Hoffman and Board of Adjustment Chairman Porter Elliott. Elliott has spoken to the council about the perceived problem and the proposed ordinance in the past.
Hoffman said Elliott should stop dispensing legal advice to the board, as that was a job only Rapp can fill.
Elliott said it was his job to interpret law and ordinances and he was not giving legal advice.
Minor will run against Niedner for the Ward 3 spot previously held by Robbyn Morris. Morris was impeached on Nov. 20, 2012 for taping a closed session of the council, a violation of the state’s Sunshine Law for open meetings and records.
to be appointed
The council also passed a new ordinance that said the city administrator shall be appointed annually by the mayor and then be approved or not by the city council.
Current city administrator Bob Jenne has been serving under a three-year contract.
Mayor Tom Wallace previously said his move for a yearly appointment was simply a return to his past tenure as mayor.
“No one wants to fire Bob,” Wallace said at the March 11 meeting.
Hoffman and Handford voted against the ordinance. Oakley, Wood, White, Stephens and Elliott voted for it.
Hoffman has said in the past that appointing a city administrator could leave the city with none at all if the council rejected the mayor’s selection.
A candidate for the job would not be willing to move a family or enroll children in school without a contract, Handford said.
“No one will come here for a six-month trial without a contract,” Handford added.
She then suggested a two-year contract for the city administrator with an annual contract thereafter.
A previous attempt by Wallace to change the city administrator’s name to city superintendent and make that person appointed failed last November.