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Stifled bid to reverse Paul's impeachment sparks anger in Ellisville

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 1, 2013 - Tempers flared at a meeting of the Ellisville City Council after an attempt to overturn former Mayor Adam Paul’s removal from office was stifled.

And supporters of the former mayor expressed blistering criticism about the growing costs to the city to defend the mayor's removal from office.

Before Wednesday’s meeting, two members of the council – Councilmen Mick Cahill and Gary Voss – had submitted a motion to reconsider the decision to remove Paul from office. Paul’s impeachment occurred before a new council – which includes several members loyal to the former mayor – was sworn into office.

But City Manager Kevin Bookout struck that item from Wednesday’s agenda. He said he had concerns about placing the measure up for discussion, so he consulted with attorney John Maupin.

Maupin – who was brought on by the city while the impeachment saga unfolded – said, among other things, that the motion ran afoul of Robert’s Rules of Order. And those rules dictate how the Ellisville City Council conducts business.

"The way that came before the council is not the way to do this," Maupin said. "The Robert’s Rules of Order that control how these meetings are run does not recognize the first motion – the idea that an action can be rescinded. Under the Robert’s Rules, that cannot be done by this type of motion." 

That sparked a spirited reaction from lawyer Chet Pleban, who represents Paul.

“So you unilaterally make a decision to circumvent what a councilperson wants to put on their agenda? You make that call? And Maupin makes the call?” Pleban said. “He doesn’t consult his client before that call is made? Are you kidding me?”

“No I’m not kidding you. I called and asked for his legal opinion,” Bookout said. “And had that legal opinion been that it’s absolutely appropriate, it would have been on it.”

Soon after that exchange, members of the crowd expressed their anger at the decision. One member of the audience called the decision “nonsense.” And another called Councilman Matt Pirrello, a former mayor, a “disgrace to the city.”

That led Pirrello (among those who had voted to oust Paul) to ask, “Does anybody else want to yell and scream?"

Pirrello told crowd members after the meeting that Cahill and Voss used the wrong procedures to try to overturn the impeachment. He said there were other ways to proceed.

“I’m telling you that had I known about this in advance, I would have said something to the people that were putting it on. I would have said ‘this isn’t going to fly.  But if you want to do this, do it this way,' ” Pirrello said. “Which would have been an ordinance or resolution. Typically, when things move to the regular agenda, it’s done through the council, but it’s done through the work session.”

“In other words we have a work session. We have a conversation about the things that we’re going to do. Then we put a motion on the table to move this move this forward with an ordinance. Move this forward with the resolution,” he added. “Move it forward somehow. That’s how they get to it. We direct staff to do that. That’s how this happens.”

Voss told that Beacon that councilmembers that oppose Paul’s impeachment would discuss what to do next.

“There are ways of doing it, I’m sure,” Voss said. “And we’re going back to look at it.”  

Costly removal

Paul’s impeachment shined a hot spotlight on Ellisville, a western St. Louis County municipality with about 9,000 people.

The former mayor’s detractors accused Paul of misusing his power with city employees, such as asking the police chief if the mayor gets a badge and a gun. Opponents also objected to Paul's actions to order police to remove two residents from a council meeting. 

But Paul contends the real issue is his opposition to tax breaks for a planned Wal-Mart. He contended the entire impeachment was a scheme to replace a mayor who opposed tax increment financing with somebody more amenable to the incentives.

At the last meeting of the Ellisville City Council in April, Paul announced that he was suing to overturn the impeachment. He also said he had filed a defamation suit against Bookout, Pirrello, Ellisville city attorney Paul Martin and Katie James.

During the public comment period, Pleban noted that Ellisville had already spent $84,418.13 on “your efforts to remove Adam Paul.” 

“I don’t live in this town. I don’t care how you spend your money,” he added. “You spend your money anyway you want. I haven’t seen one piece of positive publicity for this town and this community and these people that’s come out of this fiasco. You have an opportunity to straighten this mess out. Adam Paul’s not going away. This $84,418 is the beginning of the legal fees.”

The rising costs rankled residents supportive of Paul. Elizabeth Schmidt told reporters that the city is “spending an enormous amount of money to remove a duly elected mayor.”

“And they are likely to fail miserably when this gets to circuit court and the judge looks at this charade of charges and how the process has been,” Schmidt said. “And what infuriates me is the dollar amount and the way money is being spent. Money is being spent on a PR firm that was budgeted at $2,000, which submitted a bill for $8,000 that doesn’t even have the hours that they spent.”

Dan Duffy said, “if the anger over the removal of Mayor Paul will subside, it will do so once the city cleans up its own side of the street.

“And I think the voters have watched their guy Paul get forcibly evicted in what was really a ridiculous charade,” Duffy said. “And it’s time for the city to take a look at itself.”

Paul added during the public comment section that “if this wasn’t a fight worth fighting, I wouldn’t be here.”

“If I had people coming up to me and saying ‘I don’t want you to be our mayor anymore,’ I would concede. I would step down,” Paul said. “That just gives me the more urge to keep fighting. And I don’t want to continue to fight. I don’t want to have the media and the attention that our city is getting because of this.” 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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