The Board of Aldermen met for its rescheduled regular meeting via videoconference on December 21st. Under New Business, the Grain Valley Fair was at the top of the agenda, with Mayor Johnston requesting a motion from the board to request financial records from the Grain Valley Fair board for all years the Fair received funds from the City. Johnston outlined several accusations related to the Fair Board, including misrepresentation of who actually serves on the Fair board and misuse of funds. Johnston stated current City Administrator Ken Murphy is listed as a board member, but Murphy was not aware he was a board member and had not attended meetings.
Johnston accused Mike Todd, Fair board member and former mayor, of misuse of Fair funds, including diversion of fair funds for personal use. Additionally, Johnston questioned whether the Fair board was authorized to use funds received by the City in 2020 for food trucks that participated in the modified September 2020 Fair.
Alderman Knox stated if money was used for food trucks in 2020, “they were doing what they could to salvage what they could do for the fair”.
Pressed to disclose the source accusing Todd of misusing funds for personal use, Johnston stated former City Administrator Ryan Hunt shared the accusation with him during the mayoral campaign.
The Grain Valley Fair received $5,000 in 2020. Due to the cancellation of the majority of the Fair due to COVID-19, funds received in 2020 will be used for the 2021 fair. Murphy indicated a new contract needed to be completed to outline this understanding for 2021. Alderman Cleaver asked how long the Fair has received funds from the City. The Fair began receiving annual $5,000 allotments in 2016, for a total of $20,000 through 2020.
Johnston suggested the City request records for each year the Fair board has received funding. Johnston stated the City Attorney felt there was precedent to request financials related to the 2020 contract, but questioned whether the Board had a right to request records for all years the Fair received funds from the City. Murphy added Todd sent a monthly reconciliation report in spreadsheet form for 2020.
Alderman Stratton referenced ongoing disagreements between Johnston and Todd and asked if the request for a motion was related to the “ongoing spat between you and the Grain Valley Board president”.
“How much is coming from personal (issues) and how much is really there,” Stratton asked.
“I feel we have definite grounds to question,” Johnston said.
Once again, Johnston outlined his concerns regarding the confusion regarding who actually serves on the board versus the board listing provided on reports to the State of Missouri.
“We have a duty to see what the money is going for,” Johnston said.
Reached for comment during the meeting, Todd shared his response to the accusations.
“As for the food trucks, there were expenditures for Food Truck Friday Nights from the Fair bank account. The thing is, no city money was spent on the food trucks. We had some sponsors for the food trucks and that money came from there and from other Fair Sponsors. The Fair doesn't depend on just the City money, so we do raise other money as well. To say we were in violation of a contract with the City because we spend some money on food trucks is stretching it. Under that thought, any money spent by the Fair could be micromanaged by the Mayor,” Todd said.
“As for the board members, we have always had the City Administrator as a board member since there was a donation from the City. It must have been a verbal agreement back when we started this, because after looking into it further, it doesn't say it is a requirement from the City's contract. If the city doesn't require a rep on the board, that is totally fine, and I will make that change or see if an elected official wants the spot.”
“As for the accusations of stealing money from the Fair, I'm completely blown away. I gave the board our reconciliation form for the year and have the bank statements ready for their review as well, so they can see everything matches up if they want. To accuse me of being a thief in a public meeting based on hearsay from a former employee who was unhappy with me is borderline slander, if not slander. This ‘info’ was apparently given to him to use against me in an election that was supposed to occur last April. I really don't know what more to say about it. I'm pretty upset about it,” Todd added.
“The bottom line is that I feel this is political retaliation on his (Johnston’s) part. It's no secret this isn't his first time going after me for something.”
Johnston asked for a motion to request financial records from the Fair committee and was answered with silence from the Board. Hearing no motion, Johnston stated he was “disappointed that you don’t feel that we should review city spending and contracts,” and moved on to the next agenda item.
In other business, the Board approved several resolutions and ordinances, including: