A short meeting of the Board of Aldermen on Monday, May 24th was punctuated by a brief but tense denial of two resolutions requesting the Board’s approval of two nominees to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Mayor Chuck Johnston nominated residents Dale Arnold and Joey Burgett to fill two seats on the Commission, currently occupied by Scott Shafer and Justin Tyson. Johnston’s nominations were unanimously defeated by the six aldermen.
Both Shafer and Tyson’s terms have expired, and both expressed their desire and willingness to continue to serve to City staff and the Board of Aldermen. According to the City, Scott Shafer’s term expired February 25th and Justin Tyson’s term expired May 14, 2020. Both have continued serving on the commission in the interim.
Johnston had been asked in prior board meetings by Alderman Knox and Alderman Stratton regarding the reappointment of Shafer and Tyson based on the desire of both to continue to serve, with Johnston indicating he would reach out to the two commission members.
Reached for comment, Shafer and Tyson stated Johnston had not reached out to them regarding their desire to continue serving or his intentions in filling the positions.
The aldermen reached for comment stated the unanimous vote against Johnston’s nominees was in response to a lack of communication from the Mayor, and that there was no justification for not reappointing two willing and capable volunteers who expressed a desire to continue to serve.
“Near as I can find out, we have never not reappointed someone who was willing to serve, and I see no reason to remove them at a whim,” Alderman Rick Knox said.
“I believe the Mayor needs to learn to reach out to each one of us and explain his ideas. It’s a lot easier to go to us rather than just shove it at us. I don’t have a vendetta against either of the gentlemen nominated by the Mayor, and I’m in nobody’s pocket. But when you start removing people sitting on a board ‘just because’, why would others be willing to serve,” Knox said.
“I understand there is bad blood between these two and the Mayor. They campaigned against him. We have to let bygones be bygones and move the City forward. It’s about the taxpayer,” Knox said.
“They (Shafer and Tyson) are active, eager participating members. It didn’t sit right with me to appoint others when they expressed to all of us they were willing to serve,” Alderman Jayci Stratton said.
Alderman Tom Cleaver expressed a similar sentiment.
“Nobody has said otherwise that they are not doing a good job. I don’t see fit to take someone off the board if they are qualified and willing to serve,” Cleaver said.
“We have approved several of the Mayor’s prior appointments, including Mike Switzer to the Park Board at this meeting,” Alderman Bob Headley said.
“I understand why he’s doing it. I don’t believe the mayor and these two individuals get along very well. I get that, but we all have to play in the sandbox with folks that you don’t particularly like all the time. For me, if they had done something wrong or done something to make the city look bad then you appoint different people. One of the individuals has been in construction his entire working life and the other is an active business owner in town. Shafer has served on the Board of Aldermen in the past as well and understands what it takes to get things done,” Alderman Bob Headley said.
Alderman Darren Mills also pointed to the fact that the Board has approved other nominations in the past, but that the lack of communication to Shafer, Tyson, and the Aldermen was the reason behind the nay votes.
“Both individuals that had served their term showed interest and desire to continue on with another term. This was brought up to the Mayor and as stated in the meeting, he chose not to discuss it with the Board or the 2 individuals. I had no issue reappointing Mike Switzer to the Grain Valley Parks Board for a 3 year term,” Mills said.
Shafer and Tyson both feel Johnston’s attempt to replace them with other appointees is based solely on personal grievances.
“I think it’s real apparent that Chuck (Johnston) doesn’t like myself and Mr. Tyson. Whether you like someone or not, you need to do what is best for the City. When I was on the Board, we had trouble filling these seats. The people he (Johnston) put forward are being used as pawns in my opinion. There’s an opening currently on the Park Board. He can appoint one of these individuals to that seat. I would like to thank the Board for recognizing this childish act,” Shafer said.
Shafer said that he and Tyson are active participants on the Commission and should have received the courtesy of a phone call from the Mayor to let them know he intended to nominate others to their seats.
“We didn’t even get a courtesy phone call. That’s just sad, and that is not what a Mayor is supposed to do.”
“If there’s issues we (Shafer and Tyson) don’t understand, we go out and put a visual on things. We make sure we have our ducks in a row and put a lot of time and effort in our service,” Shafer said.
“It’s an honor to serve, and an honor to work with Mark Trosen (Community Development Director) and City Engineer Dick Tuttle. I’m learning a lot from them as well,” Tyson said.
Tyson pointed to a recent issue before the Board impacting homeowners, stating he and Shafer went out to inspect the area in question and talk to homeowners about their concerns.
“The homeowners were grateful that we took an interest, and that people would actually show up and care,” Tyson said.
“This is the level of care that Scott and I have put into the position, and I think that removing people because a sitting mayor has an issue with them or has a personal agenda is a slippery precedent. I am glad the Board did what they did.”
Johnston points to his mandate from the voters as his reasoning behind the appointments.
“I believe I was elected because of two major factors. First, people had confidence in my stances and willingness to follow through on issues facing the City. Second, some were tired of the old ways of doing things and wanted change. When I appoint citizens to boards, I’m going to do my best to see that they will represent the interests of the majority of the community and will assist me in carrying out why I was elected,” Johnston said.
When asked why he believed the Board voted against his nominations, Johnston stated “You will have to ask the Aldermen why they took the position they did”.
“I knew when I took this job, I had an uphill battle with this Board of Aldermen. We have made some good progress in the past year on several major issues. I am not a quitter and will continue to attempt to work with the Aldermen on issues before the City. I would like to see more support from the Aldermen on some issues but that is up to them. I’m not going to change what I need to do to meet the promises I made,” Johnston said.
Each of the aldermen reached for comment expressed confidence that the Board could continue to work effectively with the Mayor.
“We have worked with Chuck on a number of occasions, and even though we do not always agree on the direction we were going, there are degrees where every one of us can adjust our thinking and there’s a compromise that can be reached. I’m willing to work with the Mayor. I think we just ask that we do it a little more diplomatically,” Headley said.
In other business, the board approved a resolution authorizing the City Administrator to repair 80 linear feet of 36” CMP storm water drainage on Golfview Drive, and approved an ordinance rezoning 3.15 acres to multi-family residential allowing for the development of Creekside Villas, to include 26 multi-family units. Additionally, the rezoning of 5.5 acres from agricultural to multi-family residential was approved, allowing for 35 units known as Creekside Commons to be developed.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Aldermen will be held Monday, June 14th at 7:00pm.