For the second time in the past year, the Board of Aldermen is considering a censure vote. In its March 13th meeting, the Board voted to bring up a formal censure of Alderman Dale Arnold at its next regularly scheduled meeting.
The Board voted in April 2022 to censure then mayor Chuck Johnston for disclosure of executive session information on social media platforms. Arnold is facing censure after an admitted call to the Jackson County Election Board (JCEB) in the days following the judge’s decision in a recent suit between the City and JCEB regarding revised ward boundaries, and for allegedly disclosing executive session information related to the suit to former mayor and current Board of Aldermen candidate Johnston.
Mayor Mike Todd opened the discussion by asking Arnold if he had contacted JCEB and when.
“I just asked what their side of the situation was. I gave them nothing from our side,” Arnold said.
Arnold stated he could not recall the date of the call, and believed that he only needed to wait 72 hours before making the call.
City Attorney Joe Lauber clarified that this was incorrect, and that the 72-hour rule he referenced only pertained to employee matters.
The concerns expressed regarding Arnold’s call to JCEB revolve around the fact that the Board had 30 days following the decision to decide on next steps, including an appeal of the judge’s decision in the case. Concerns were raised that the call to JCEB and subsequent leak of executive session information to Johnston could have jeopardized the City’s ability to act on an appeal.
“It was clearly not final at that point,” Lauber said.
“Private information was divulged during a private conversation. That information should not have been divulged,” Alderman Tom Cleaver said.
“I guess the nagging question I have is why was the phone call made in the first place instead of checking with city staff, checking with our legal team before making your phone call. You could have got your answers from our staff, legal team and never divulged anything,” Alderman Rick Knox said.
“It was a fact-finding phone call and nothing I ever thought would be a problem,” Arnold said.
Alderman Ryan Skinner asked when the phone call was made to Johnston. Arnold could not recall the exact date but stated he believed it occurred after his call to the County.
“The person we are talking about (Johnston) has a proven track record of disclosing executive session information, so we know that if it got to him, he wouldn’t have had an issue disclosing it, which bothers me even more that we’re having this discussion with a person who was censured less than a year ago for letting out executive session information,” Skinner said.
Skinner referenced a social media post by Johnston in which he indicated he knew Arnold was the only “no” vote in a closed session vote regarding proceeding with the suit against JCEB. Skinner asked board members if they had had any conversations with Johnston regarding the vote.
“No, and he somehow knew I voted yes,” Alderman Darren Mills said.
“I didn’t have that discussion, so he got it from somebody,” Skinner said.
“An assumption on his part,” Arnold said.
“That’s a pretty good assumption when he puts out on social media that you were the only one who voted against it,” Knox said.
“May have been,” Arnold said.
“I’m very disconcerted that every answer is ‘might of been, could have been, I don’t know’. Were you advised to answer that way?,” Mills said.
“I don’t want to get into a long discussion or debate about what I discussed with my attorney,” Arnold said.
Alderman Shea Bass inquired about the timing and purpose of the phone call to JCEB.
“As of right now, I’m failing to understand the purpose of the phone call,” Bass said.
“You say you want to act in the best interest of the citizens…I totally understand that and I totally agree. I don’t know that contacting the Jackson County Election Board without speaking to City staff was necessarily in the best interest of the citizens that elected you,” Bass said.
Lauber outlined the four options for the Board to consider: do nothing, issue a verbal admonishment, a written censure to be passed by the board at the next meeting, or impeachment.
A motion was made for a written censure to be considered at the next board meeting. The motion passed with Arnold as the only “no” vote.
Reached for comment, Tammy Brown, Director, Jackson County Board of Election Commissioners, stated she spoke with Arnold by phone. Brown does not recall exact date but believes it was after the judge’s decision.
According to Brown, Arnold asked her why there was a lawsuit.
“I said, I assumed it was because the Board of Aldermen okayed the suit,” Brown said.
Brown also said Arnold asked about Board of Alderman Chuck Johnston in relation to the ward boundaries and the Election Board’s view of the issue related to the suit.
“I explained to him it was very clear. We had asked for the lines by October 2021, and we did not receive them until November 14, 2022,” Brown said.
Brown said she also reiterated that the Board advised Grain Valley to run candidate filings for the April 2023 election off the previous ward boundaries.
Reached for further comment, Arnold said he felt “it would be inappropriate to comment, while (the issue) is still under discussion”.
Reached for comment regarding conversations he and Arnold had regarding the lawsuit, Chuck Johnston stated, “That’s between Dale and the Board of Aldermen. I’m not involved.”
In other business, the Board approved a resolution for United Service Company Inc. to provide maintenance services to the city owned water tanks and tower. The interior of the water tower will be sandblasted and painted as a part of this year’s maintenance work.
The Board also approved a resolution to collect the City’s $85,867 allotment of Jackson County COMBAT tax funding, and a resolution continuing the cooperative agreement with Grain Valley Schools to provide school resource officers.
The Board approved the first reading of an ordinance to amend the City’s Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use map, changing the zoning of 11.5 acres currently zoned for residential to light industrial to allow for two planned businesses to locate in the area near Creekside Village. The Board voted down the second reading of an ordinance to establish a Community Improvement District for Creekside Village, as no residents attended a planned meeting by the property owners to gauge interest in establishing the district to address maintenance of private roadways in the subdivision.
The next scheduled Board of Aldermen meeting will be at 7:00pm on Monday, March 27th at City Hall.