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SECRECY, DISHONESTY ALLEGATIONS DOG MATTHES: City manager faces more anger over Sunshine Law violations

"When does this kind of disrespect for transparency end?"

COLUMBIA, Mo 6/14/16 (Beat Byte) -- For the second time in less than a month, Columbia city manager Mike Matthes is under fire for transparency violations.

In emails sent between June 8-10, two City Council members appear divided over the issue. 

Members of Race Matters, Friends, a Columbia-based social justice cooperative, have accused Matthes of stalling Sunshine Law requests for emails related to the Blind Boone Home renovation.

The city manager apologized earlier this month after his office failed to post a public announcement about the Mayor's Infrastructure Task Force in accordance with Missouri's Sunshine Law.  

"I have been trying to get the City to answer a records request I made back in March," Race Matters, Friends organizer Traci Wilson-Kleekamp explained in a June 8 email sent to group members, reporters, and city officials. 

"Matthes said he received 500 emails in opposition to the renovations to the Blind Boone Home," Wilson-Kleekamp added.   "He said THAT situation was the first time he realized there were racial problems in Columbia.  Now he and his staff are giving me the bureaucratic round-around." 

Constituents contacted Council members with similar concerns. 

"Lately, it seems that many decisions have been made that affect our community, but do not include our community," Sky Jimenez emailed Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas.   "This is a great concern to me as I hope it is to you and our other Council members.    Having transparency and community involvement in city decisions is extremely important." 

 

Matthes is well-known for secrecy and dishonesty.   In violation of city ordinance, he called two “special” City Council meetings to approve student apartments from Opus, American Campus Communities, and Campus Housing Partners.  

He also repeated a line -- “We Are 100% Out of Infrastructure”-- that turned out to be one of the most notorious lies in the history of Columbia public officialdom. 
 
"A lack of transparency has been a hallmark of Matthes' tenure as City Manager," Wilson-Kleekamp noted.   "When does this kind of disrespect for transparency end?   When does the City Council start putting their foot down on their employee who habitually allows/practices secrecy?"

Faced with multiple transparency violations during his 2016 campaign against challenger and former 4th Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley, Thomas agreed with Wilson-Kleekamp.  

"I believe in complete transparency in government," he wrote.   "I will continue to campaign for a status quo in which everyone - elected officials, City management, and staff at all levels - provides accurate information and explains their positions on issues in a way that can be challenged and discussed openly."

But another City Council member says he's not too concerned about City Hall, instead reserving his punches for Columbia Heart Beat editor and publisher Mike Martin.       

"Overall, I am pleased with the level of transparency in city government," 2nd Ward City Councilman Michael Trapp emailed 2nd Ward resident John Glenn June 9.  "The city is complex and we are going to make mistakes."

Glenn urged Mr. Trapp to examine the stalled Race Matters, Friends Sunshine Law request.   He included Heart Beat articles as illustrations of past lapses.   

"I read all of the Mike Martin articles you referenced but have little patience for his tortured logic and false conclusions," Mr. Trapp emailed Glenn.   "I find his stuff pretty annoying.  The Hank Waters parody was especially bad."

This publication has frequently criticized Mr. Trapp for his own transparency and ethics lapses.  
 
A longtime champion of City Hall openness, retired Columbia Public Works supervisor Bill Weitkemper said he believes Council members need to start taking the lapses seriously enough to end them. 

"Having an employee that lied about posting a meeting notice and having another employee (the city manager) who brushed the entire matter aside should be of greater concern to Councilman Trapp than indicating he apparently finds it 'pretty annoying' someone dared to complain,' Weitkemper emailed the group.
 
Despite the difference of opinion, the law is the law, Wilson-Kleekamp noted.  

"The position of the city manager's office seems to be -- 'We will answer whenever we feel like it.'   His office does NOT follow the requirements of the Missouri Sunshine law," she wrote.   "I am not writing this note out of anger or frustration.   I think Race Matters, Friends and others have made a considerable effort to continually give Matthes' administration the benefit of the doubt."   


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