Rules for the Rich -- and for the RestCOLUMBIA, Mo 5/3/14 (Op Ed) -- The spectacle of Columbia's two most prominent leaders -- Mayor Bob McDavid and Tribune newspaper owner Hank Waters -- throwing stones at Repeal 6214 for possibly violating the City Charter is a perfect example of Columbia's power elite double standard.
With likely help from city attorney Nancy Thompson -- here under her own cloud -- the two men identified a possible flaw in the Repeal 6214 petition, over 3,600 signatures to reverse a City Council decision approving Opus Group's six-story downtown student apartment.
Though it has a summary of the ordinance and specifically names it, "the petition...did not include a copy of the ordinance to be rescinded as required by the city charter," Waters started his third editorial condemning the Repeal effort. "Mayor Bob McDavid wants city staff to invalidate the petition."
City Clerk Sheela Amin found the petition lacking 91 valid signatures, sending it back to organizers for repair. But had she invalidated it over a legal violation, the force of fairness would push City Council members to invalidate Ordinance 6214 itself over a legal violation.
In his haste to ram it through, city manager Mike Matthes said he called two special Council meetings "verbally," violating Columbia City Ordinance 2-22, which requires the Mayor, Council members, and city manager to follow a process akin to serving a summons or subpoena to call a special meeting.The law says a police officer must physically serve each Council member (or a bona fide representative) at his/her home or business with a written notice of the special meeting. Though he did not provide details, Matthes likely used his cell phone to dial up one or more Council members. By his own admission, no cops or physically-served notices were involved.
So where are the Waters' editorials -- and the Mayoral outrage -- over this blatant legal violation? Absent. Like the cronies he seems to be serving, Mayor McDavid has barely uttered a peep over his city manager's disregard of the law -- a disregard, mind you, that helped get City Hall into the repeal predicament.
As for the Repeal petition's so-called City Charter violation: "The charter also could be interpreted to say that the circulators only needed to submit the full text of the ordinance to the clerk when they were dropping off the petition. 'It's not a clear-cut matter,'" Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe -- a veteran lawyer -- told the Tribune last week.
But calling special Council meetings without the proper services of a police officer is clear cut. The two noon-hour meetings that led to the Opus project's 4-3 approval sparked widespread outrage, while illustrating that two sets of rules apply at City Hall: Rules for the Rich -- and Rules for the Rest.