Ongoing squabbles on social media among current Mayor Chuck Johnston, former mayor Mike Todd, and Grain Valley resident and Planning and Zoning Commission member Scott Shafer over the recent mayoral campaign and community campus bond issue grew even more heated in mid-September.
Former Mayor Todd posted criticism of Mayor Johnston to his former Mayor Facebook account, renamed “Grain Valley Community Advocate Michael Todd” on September 16th. Todd criticized Johnston for not lowering the City’s property tax rate after Johnston stated during the mayoral campaign that the tax should be lowered further than cuts made under Todd’s administration. Johnston replied to Todd’s statement with the following statement:
“I’m sure that the former Mayor knows that the Mayor can’t reduce taxes he can only try to influence the Board of Aldermen in those decisions. It is ultimately their decision. He also fails to mention that the City’s accounting firm had made the recommendation to the BoA (Board of Aldermen) to maintain the existing tax levy which in turn would pay off the entire city debt a year earlier and create a substantial savings in interest over the remaining term of the debt.”
Todd, Johnston, and Shafer continued to argue via Facebook, with Shafer posting a screen shot of a 2015 lawsuit filed by Diane Adams vs. Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. (OOIDA) in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Valley News was subsequently contacted by Shafer, who shared a copy of the suit filed in Jackson County Circuit Court. Shafer stated he felt compelled to visit the courthouse and request a copy of the suit after receiving emails and calls about the case from unnamed sources.
The case was filed in October 2015 and dismissed by both parties in March 2017. The suit states the plaintiff, Ms. Adams, “was subjected to an unwelcome, hostile work environment including physical and verbal harassment by supervisor Chuck Johnston, causing PTSD, anxiety, and depression.” The suit also alleges the plaintiff registered several complaints with OOIDA President Jim Johnston, and was notified Chuck Johnston would be terminated. The suit alleges Chuck Johnston was reinstated and returned as an employee on January 7, 2015.
Reached for comment, OOIDA shared the following statement regarding the case:
“Diane Adams, a former employee of OOIDA, filed a lawsuit against OOIDA in 2015 alleging that she was subject to disability discrimination in connection with her employment. OOIDA denied Ms. Adams’ allegations and vigorously defended against the lawsuit. OOIDA and Ms. Adams agreed to resolve the lawsuit after approximately more than a year of litigation, with no admission of liability by OOIDA. Because the matter has been resolved by the parties, OOIDA will not provide further comment on this matter.”
Johnston declined to comment in detail regarding the suit.
“Ms. Adams didn’t file a lawsuit against me. Her claims were against OOIDA. However, because this matter involves personnel issues relating to OOIDA and because I’m still an employee of OOIDA it would be inappropriate for me to provide any further comment on this matter,” Johnston said.
Reached for comment regarding the recent arguments via social media, Shafer and Todd point to unmet campaign promises and lack of communication on the part of Johnston as their source of frustration.
“Let’s just say people that live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks. You never know who’s going to throw it back,” Shafer said.
“Mr. Johnston to start with ran a campaign on a lot of misleading information on the new complex. Mr. Johnston ran on a platform of better communication, better leadership, lowering taxes, cutting wasteful spending, and how he was not only going to fix more streets, but get it done at a faster rate. So far I have not seen any of this happen, in fact the city just passed the tax levy with no change. Under Mr. Johnston’s leadership, as for wasteful spending, Mr. Johnston has ran for Mayor three or four times in the past on how he was going to stop the wasteful spending. But when asked, no reply on where the city has and is wasting tax payers money,” Shafer said.
“After asking him questions on his Mayor (Facebook) page which, he said he would reply to, I’ve not received any reply other than criticizing my spelling. I attended a City meeting, asked questions with no reply other than ‘thank you’. Whether Mr. Johnston likes me or not, I do pay taxes and should get some answers to my questions. After all, he is the one that made all these accusations and promises. I think it’s only fair he should give answers.”
“My disagreement with him is that for years he had constant complaints about me. He said I wasn’t a leader and just a yes man. He said that everything that happened in town would have happened regardless of me and that I didn’t have a part in any of it. He also complained that I wasn’t on the Residents of Grain Valley Page to respond to residents and that he didn’t like the responses I gave to citizens during the citizen comment time at Alderman meetings. He ran on a platform of better communication with residents, lowering taxes, better streets happening faster, and cutting wasteful spending,” Todd said.
“He will have been in office 100 days as of September 30 I believe, and I haven’t seen any of that. Actually, I have seen the exact opposite of that in pretty much all of those areas. I would argue that his communication has been well below what mine was. On his Facebook page he has made very few posts since becoming Mayor and most of them are him complaining about what someone has said about what he is or isn’t doing or a conflict of interest he may or may not have. He also is not responding on Residents of Grain Valley (a Facebook group) and is hiding behind the social media policy that is in place.”
“I guess the bottom line is that I spent 10 years as Mayor and Grain Valley means a lot to me. It bothers me that he ran on all these promises and we haven’t seen action towards any of them and in most cases, we have seen actions that are direct opposites of what he said. He first ran for Mayor 10 years ago so he had lots of time to prepare for this, so he should have hit the ground running on day one with his ideas, and that is not what we have seen at all. I guess I call it like I see it and right now I’m not seeing anything that he sold the citizens of Grain Valley on,” Todd said.
Public posts and comments from the trio have been quiet in recent weeks. Johnston shared he plans to discontinue responding to posts on social media to the issues raised.
“Regarding Mr. Todd and Mr. Shafer, they are private citizens and entitled to their opinions. I have already spent too much time addressing their personal attacks on me and I will not spend any additional time responding or commenting on those issues. There are too many good things happening in Grain Valley and I intend on devoting my time and efforts towards working on those and additional improvements to our City,” Johnston said.