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Musings: On Pepper Spray, Security Systems, and Commission Agenda Modifications

Musings From Clay County Missouri

I finally made it back down to the Clay County Courthouse on Monday after numerous weeks away. If you haven’t seen the reports that were published you should read THIS and THIS before delving into the Musing below.

As a County taxpayer and someone who has observed Clay County politics for nearly a decade now, I’ve learned to just accept that disappointment is the norm to be expected from the County Courthouse.

Monday was yet another eventful Commission meeting in a long line of eventful and painful meetings I’ve seen over the course of the last year.

First, it’s worth taking on the issues with the Collector’s office. If you haven’t heard yet, Collector Lydia McEvoy has caused some controversy by purchasing pepper spray for her office staff and changing the security system on her office.

Was purchasing the pepper spray a poor decision?

Probably, but I don’t think it was that big of a deal.

The reality is Mrs. McEvoy’s office deals with the overwhelming majority of Clay County taxpayers as most people own some form of property. The odds dictate there could be one person that could cause trouble at the Courthouse. Especially when you consider that property taxes are being extorted from the citizens at the worst time of year.

Was the County put at risk by her actions?

Maybe, but it’s arguable that Macing an irate person, say someone who jumped over the counter or who launched a stapler at a staff member, is a form of self-defense. Honestly, as a member of the taxpaying public, I’d be alright paying lawyers to defend that one. You see, I think self-defense is an inviolable right, and even a clerk in a County’s Collector’s office is entitled to that.

I see no problem with the changing of the security system in her office. We don’t elect the Commission to be responsible for the money the Collector’s office deals with. We elect the County Collector to do this job.

This is where this gets contradictory. Suddenly Ms. Ridgeway is concerned about the Courthouse facilities being modified without her permission?

I mean that’s nothing like a wall being modified without the Commission’s permission! Nope. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Uh, uh…

Oh, wait….

To quote Commissioner Nolte when he asked for County Administrator Dean Brookshier to resign back in October:

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.

Should McEvoy had gone to the Commission to change the security system?

Maybe, but it’s not like she was in the Courthouse with a sledgehammer removing a wall. She basically changed the locks on her office doors which cost the county a minimal amount of money. Her rational was sound for wanting to do it.

It’s not like she had the locks changed and then phoned in HGTV to shoot a show on remodeling at the taxpayer expense.

The fact that we’re discussing locks on the Collector’s office doors in the Courthouse should tell you just how silly things have gotten down at the Courthouse.

And then we have Assistant County Administrator Nicole Brown on 41 News. Ms. Brown has become quite a source of controversy over the last year. And, true to form, she went on 41 and called McEvoy a loose cannon. The real comedy in Brown’s comments on 41 wasn’t the loose cannon quip, but the fact that she stood there and told a reporter this:

“If there had been an emergency during that time employees could’ve been trapped or the building could’ve sustained damage that would not have otherwise happened.”

I’m sorry, but, what?

Because door handles don’t work in emergency situations?

I’d ask Ms. Brown for a comment to clarify, but there’s like three things I’m still waiting on comments on from months ago. So, I’m just going off the evidence provided at this point. Maybe there’s more to it I don’t know.

Maybe it’s just that Ms. Brown is overcompensating and worrying more about harm than she used to. After all we had slip-holders falling in the water due to disrepair at Camp Branch earlier in the year, so maybe she’s trying to make up for the shortcomings. I applaud her vigilance for office safety.

And then this? I mean, really?

We also saw significant changes to the Commission’s agenda this Monday as Commissioner Owen and Ridgeway voted to move the public, office holder, and agency comments to the end of the meeting agenda. They also removed the Commissioner comments. Finally, they voted to give the Commission the ability to limit the length of public comment. 

There are quite a few Clay Countians upset by the actions of Ridgeway and Owen.

I’ve struggled with them a little bit. With regard to moving the comments, I can see the argument Ms. Ridgeway put forth. Having attended these meetings and seen the public comments last for quite some time, there is something to be said for allowing the scheduled business to be addressed first. In some some cases there are people who are scheduled to be at the Commission for an agenda topic.

With regards to limiting the length of comment time, this is not an uncommon practice at school boards and city councils. I don’t have qualms with this as some people can get carried away with the moment and ramble unnecessarily. I realize not everyone is a polished public speaker, but you should be able to get your message down in a public setting like this to 5 minutes or so.

Commissioner Nolte seems to think this was done to reduce and silence criticism of the Commission. The cynical side of me says he’s right, but the arguments made by Ms. Ridgeway are logically sound. Whatever the case, it’s done, and while it may be more difficult to plan to speak as a citizen, you still have that option.

I will say this. Ms. Ridgeway’s arguments would be completely defensible if she went the extra mile to interact with constituents from this point forward. For that matter, the same could be said of all the Commissioners although I’ve found Mr. Nolte the most accessible of the bunch.

To the citizen that is reading this editorial, if you aren’t getting your voice heard, just give us a call. It is a stated goal of TheNorthlandNews.com to increase communication between the citizen and those that represent them. This site currently reaches anywhere from 10,000 to 17,000 people per month and it’s growing all the time. We will happily publish anything in our Citizen Voices section. Just send an email to [email protected]

Now the thing I thought that was a bigger deal was the complete removal of the Commissioner Comment section of the meeting. Commissioner Nolte has in fact used that at many points this past year to express his concern about issues.

I found Ms. Ridgeway’s arguments ridiculous. It’s a rule of mine that anytime someone hangs their hat on “tradition” you ought to show some concern. There’s an old quote that’s really appropriate here, “The most dangerous phrase in the English language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’”

Ms. Ridgeway sounded like she was arguing for a “safe space” last Monday. Oh, boo, hoo! Commissioner Nolte is bringing up things you don’t like. Quit whining and either answer them or ignore them, but don’t silence them. I don’t care how it has been done by past Commissions. Past Commissions aren’t currently in office.

The citizens of Clay County deserve better than what is seen at the Courthouse on a regular basis.

Andrew Palmer is the editor/publisher of TheNorthlandNews.com. He can be reached at 816-678-6965 or by email at [email protected]



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