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Contention Continues at the Clay County Courthouse

Public Comments Bring Questions About Financial Success of Horseback by America event, Nolte Calls for County Administrator Dean Brookshier’s Resignation

Monday brought another episode of the tensions that have plagued the County Commission meeting for months. The beginning of the Commission meeting saw several public comments expressing concern about the expenses spent on the recent Horseback by America TV show that was filmed at Smithville Lake. It ended with Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte calling for the resignation of County Administrator Dean Brookshier.

All County meetings begin with the approval of the agenda. Commissioner Nolte again attempted to put forth a resolution (2016-291) that would prevent the County Commission from sending unsolicited mass mailings with the use of county funds.

BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED BY THE COUNTY COMMISSION OF CLAY COUNTY, MISSOURI THAT, no Clay County Commissioner shall send out or cause to be sent out unsolicited mass mailings using public funds, personnel or materials that transacts no official business. Mass mailing defined as greeting or holiday cards or other materials that transacts no official business or other similar items of more than 100 pieces annually which are substantially identical. This includes the printing, assembly, addressing, providing or applying postage, or otherwise process mass mailings. The cost of greeting cards or other materials that transacts no official business, is a personal expense and may not be charged to public funds regardless of whether the cards or materials are “non-personal” (sent by the agency and not containing the names of any individuals). These prohibitions do not apply to materials requested by the citizen receiving the material. This shall not prohibit communications required by state statute or other legal requirements. This does not prohibit materials or information being provided upon request of a citizen of Clay County. Any Commissioner voting in the majority of this resolution is authorized to sign the attached contracts and documents (if applicable) to facilitate this order.

Nolte has continued to raise concerns about the mailings that have been sent by County Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen. These are the same mailings that Clay County citizen Gary Markenson has filed a lawsuit over. A bench trial is scheduled in the case for February 10, 2017.

Commissioner Ridgeway raised a point of order about Nolte’s proposed resolution expressing concerns that it resembled another resolution that was tabled in early September. After some disagreement, the new resolution was tabled by Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen.

You can watch the exchange about the resolution below:

Monday saw a busy podium for public comment. There was much discussion about the taping of an episode of the Best of America By Horseback television show that was recently completed at Smithville Lake. Some citizens in Clay County feel that the Clay County Multipurpose Building was built primarily for this event.

The first to speak was Bud Wackerle. Wackerle is a member of the Clay County Parks Advisory Board. According to Wackerle, he originally presented the idea of the television show to the Commission. For the television show to come here, Clay County spent roughly $20,000. (TheNorthlandNews.com will be filing a Sunshine Request that will allow us to provide exact specifics.)

The event was in town from September 14-18. It brought a total of 100 horses and riders and around 50 camping units. Crews from the TV show filmed a total of two trail rides focusing in on some of the historic sites in Clay County. There was also a benefit banquet that was held on Friday night for the Northland Therapeutic Riding Center. A total of $1,400 was raised for the organization.

Wackerle shared a letter from the host Tom Seay of Best of America by Horseback. Seay stated that the show would be broadcasting two different episodes about Clay County.

The video below starts at the beginning of Wackerle’s comments:

Next to speak was Nicki Thorn, public services manager for Clay County. She shared numerous positive public comments from the event. Commissioner Nolte eventually interrupted asking Thorn to wait until the agency comments portion of the agenda.

You can see her first comments here and the rest of her comments later in this report:

Clay County citizen Jim Murray was next to speak. Murray asked the Commission how much the event specifically cost the taxpayers and how much in revenue the event generated. Murray also asked about something pertaining to saddles that were purchased by Emergency Management. Murray seemed to insinuate that the saddles had been possibly raffled at the charity event.

Nolte asked County Administrator Brookshier to comment about the saddles. Brookshier response was, “Not that I’m aware of.”

The conversation between Murray and the County Administrator became a little more contentious after Brookshier asked Murray to identify himself again. Brookshier stated that there was some litigation at one point between the County and a Jim Murray. Nolte continued to press Brookshier, and Brookshier responded, “I’m not commenting on any individual that is involved in litigation with the County.”

Nolte responded, “I’m not asking you to comment on an individual, I’m asking you to answer the commission.”

Brookshier told Nolte, “If the commission gives me an order, I’ll do it.”

Nolte attempted to get support from the other Commissioners, but both were not willing to support him. Ridgeway then showed Nolte the rules of Commission indicating her belief that Murray had the right to address the Commission, but the commentary had veered away from the rules.

Murray stated before stepping away from the microphone that the litigation Brookshier referenced had been resolved.

His comments are below:

Republican Candidate for County Assessor Lisa Keefer was next to comment.

“I just wish the commission and staff would listen to the citizens of Clay County and respect them. We simply want answers. It sounds like a wonderful event has happened. Profit and loss is all we want. People don’t have time to come here week after week at ten o’clock. We all work. Sorry I’m dressed like this. I just got off my job and sounds like this is going to be a three hour meeting again instead of a half hour. We just want answers.”

Keefer’s comments are available here:

Carey Welk spoke after Keefer. Welk is husband to Terri Welk who has spoken several times at the Commission on issues pertaining to Camp Branch Marina and Sailboat Cove.

“When I came in this morning I was reading some of the statements on the wall out here that were written quite long ago and I think it pertains to our commission right now. ‘This county is as strong as the character of its citizens. I think it also ought to include our commissioners and administrators.”

Welk encouraged the county to consider the needs of the golf course at Paradise Pointe Golf Complex. He shared that Paradise Pointe had recently fired its greens keeper and hoped that the issue was remedied quickly. Welk went on to tell the Commission that one golfer he knew of had recently refused to play “The Posse” course, saying that “he refused to play on that goat range.”

Welk also went on to share some concerns about the Horseback by America event. Telling the Commission he didn’t want to be a “negative Nelly”, but he was concerned that there was some inequity in the services provided to boat slip holders and the expense spent on the event.

You can listen to Welk’s concerns here:

Finally, Clay County Citizen Sherry Duffett brought concerns about an issue with a couple resolutions that had been passed, but were contradictory.

Duffett also read a prepared statement that expressed concern about too much business being conducted in executive session and not in front of the public in open meeting. She also commented on some of the problems that have existed between Commissioners in recent meetings.

Duffet’s comments are available here:

Nicki Thorn returned to the mic to complete her comments that were started previously. Thorn continued to share positive comments the County received and indicated that the Clay County Horse Trails Facebook page had seen significant engagement during the week of the event.

Melissa Mohler, Clay County Tourism Manager spoke after Thorn. Using 2015 statistics, she estimated that $51,000 of direct impact was delivered to the County economy from the event.

You can see the full agency comments below:

Commissioner comments always occur near the end of the County meeting. During his portion, Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte called for County Administrator Dean Brookshire’s resignation. He sent over a written copy of his prepared remarks. We have added those below in their entirety. The video of the Commissioner’s comments follow.

Over the past year there has been a deterioration of the confidence I have in Mr. Brookshier and his ability to perform the tasks for which he is responsible as the County Administrator. Those concerns center on his insubordinate attitude, his competence to do his job, how he relates to others in this government and his actions that raise possible legal issues.

On the morning of March 23 of this year, I was informed with an hour’s notice that a wall would be removed in room 1305. The previous Monday during discussion of another improvement in our buildings, I asked the Administrator if there were any other projects such as building or removing a wall were contemplated, I got no reply. Similar and smaller projects have been brought to the Commission for consideration under Missouri Statute 49.470.1. I have been waiting since March for an answer to my question, by what legal authority the Administrator acted without Commission direction. I still await an answer. I find this lack of response and accountability by the Administrator blatantly insubordinate.

On June 20, I was subjected to one of the more public displays of insubordination. During that meeting, the Administrator; organized and coordinated an attempt to publically embarrass the Presiding Commissioner, possibly violating the Sunshine Law in the process. Further I believe he was a party to and participated in a false accusation of misappropriation of funds against the Presiding Commissioner with no proof.

The County Commission was discussing, 2016-ORD-16. During that conversation, Commissioner Ridgeway wanted to hear from Commissioner Owen. Mr. Owen immediately asked to hear from the County Administrator who chose not to address 2016-ORD-16, but read from a prepared, written statement. During that statement, I assume at the direction of Administrator, a staff member distributed copies of the Presiding Commissioner’s Bi-lingual business cards.

In that statement he accused the Presiding Commissioner of violating county law. Shortly after his statement Commissioner Ridgeway made an accusation of misappropriation of funds. The Liberty Tribune referred to the “setting up a noticeably orchestrated exchange, during which Brookshier read a statement regarding his concern over business cards printed for Nolte with Chinese lettering.”

In his prepared statement the Administrator further attempted to publicly embarrass the Presiding Commissioner by an accusation of not following chain of command. When I took office in January of 2015, I was approached by staff to order stationary and business cards. That is the process presented to me. No objection or question concerning these cards was brought to my attention before June 20. It appears it was held and only raised in a public forum to cause a disruption of the public Commission meeting and to derail a policy discussion by a coordinated distraction, I believe the Administrator acted both improperly and with blatant insubordination. The orchestrated exchange required coordination with the two Commissioners and could be a possible violation of Missouri’s Sunshine Law on the part of the Administrator.

The Administrator, I believe uses “Chain of Command” in an overly rigid way, in an attempt to block information and access to employees by the Presiding Commissioner. This is in direct contradiction of the Administrator’s contract, Section 2 Duties of Employee (F) “…Nothing contained in this Agreement shall discourage and/or limit the County Commission’s ability to communicate with County Employees.”  Recently, I was with a citizen, who has serious concerns about a pressing issue, I needed information. I was told that I needed to go through procedure before I could talk to the department. I was told that the citizen needed to submit his question in writing. Why are we making access to the government more difficult for our citizens?

In one of the more blatant examples of insubordination, the Administrator has in my presence and the presence of members of senior staff regularly used derogatory nick names when referring to elected officials such as Godzilla and Commissioner Pendergast. This sets a tone of disrespect rather than cooperation, The Administrator’s insubordination has affected senior staff members and their attitude toward the Presiding Commissioner and other elected officials. Staff must find this confusing and it puts our employees in an awkward position.

Two examples;

  • September 28, I received an email from the Assistant Administrator for Finance & Administrative Services dressing me down for circumventing procedure when submitting items for agenda to the Administrator. The agenda items were in fact submitted on time to the Administrator as part of the group. I was told in the e-mail that my submissions would not be accepted if I did not follow procedure. The e-mail was in my opinion insubordinate and itself acting outside the chain of command.
  • On June 29, I arrived at the Parks office for a meeting with Smithville Lake slip holders. My purpose was to get additional citizen input regarding ongoing maintenance and safety problems. I was told by staff that this was a staff meeting (generally members of the public do not attend staff meetings), I was told I was not allowed to attend. Further, that I should have contacted the County Administrator before attending. In addition, the staff member stated that if I did not leave immediately that she would adjourn the meeting. I said that I would call the Administrator and asked if she would give me a minute to do so. The Assistant-Administrator responded no and that I must leave the meeting immediately.

On another issue, I sought the advice of the Administrator concerning a Parks Board member who used a vile name in reference to a constituent. He did not offer any advice or guidance, I was instead relegated to a reply came from staff which was not responsive. Once again, according to the Administrator’s contract, he is to “… provide them(elected officials) with facts and advice on matters of policy as a basis for making decisions and setting community goals…”

I have also noticed a disturbing tendency on the part of the Administrator to assign female Assistant Administrators secretarial type duties not required of their male counter parts, putting them in an uncomfortable position.

For example:

  • Submitting reports from departments headed by male Assistant Administrators.
  • Maintaining schedules and makes appointments for Commissioners.
  • Taking notes and acting as a secretary during meetings.
  • And other clerical type assignments not given to male Assistant Administrators.

I am concerned that this attitude on the part of the Administrator is creating a hostile environment.

When the Commission took up the request by the Sheriff to increase the pay of our deputies early this year, I repeatedly asked for information from the Administrator on the fiscal impact, but none was given. The Administrator, who is also the Chief Budget Officer of the county, neglected his duty to provide information to the Commission to make this important decision, once again as required by his Administrator’s contract. This showed disrespect not only to the Commission, but for Law Enforcement.

Another area of concern is the Administrator’s inability to competently fulfill the requirements of his position. This year as the Commission worked to set the Levy, we were once again given inaccurate numbers for two years in a row. The same problem came up last year, which required a special Commission meeting to correct.

Recently a policy barring employees from attending meetings without permission was brought up. While this was distributed via e-mail by a senior staff member, the stringent chain of command policy indicates it was done with the approval of the Administrator. The policy is unclear, confusing and presents possible legal issues by limiting the constitutional rights of county employees. This policy change was not presented to the Commission and did not go through the proper process to be included in our employee manual. As far as I can determine there has been no legal advice request from counsel to assess the county’s liability.

The use of taxpayer money paying for mass mailings continues to be brought up without much discussion. The birthday cards have been going out by the thousands. In the chain of command, the Administrator is responsible for directing staff to; assign personnel, put a stamp each one, generate a frequent voter list and process by hand these political mailings as well as other duties. The Administrator acted with intentional and conscious disregard of the legal advice from two county counselors who at the time expressed the opinion that including the James Farm passes was a violation of the Missouri Constitution. They also advised against targeting-limited mailings to frequent voters. The Administrator carried out these improper and potentially illegal acts in spite of written legal opinion that is reckless at best.

I am beginning to see and hear disturbing things about redacted invoices. When I get an invoice without the detail that I need to approve for payment with tax dollars, my ability to do my job is severely compromised. These redactions, under the stringent chain of command structure of the Administrator, must be a result of his direction. The Associate Commissioners may approve these payments, but I will refuse to sign any purchase orders that block a detailed accounting for how taxpayer money is spent.

These are a few examples of deep concerns I have with the Administrator, the responsibility is on him. Given what I see as the insubordination, incompetence, unprofessional work environment created by the Administrator and his legally questionable acts, I am calling for Dean Brookshier to resign as the Administrator of Clay County.

*Editor’s Note: TheNorthlandNews.com has been unable to attend the Clay County Commission lately. We were given video of this week’s meeting. This is the video that is recorded by the Clay County Assessor’s office. 

About Andrew Palmer