At last Monday’s Clay County Commission meeting, Commissioner Nolte read prepared remarks about County Administrator Dean Brookshier’s new contract prior to the official start of the meeting. The Northland News reported on the contract a couple weeks ago.
Brookshier pay increased significantly from $102,000 to $149,000 in addition to numerous other benefits. You can read our report on the salary by clicking HERE.
This is the second time in recent months attendees have seen Nolte do this. Nolte used to make comments during the commissioner comment section of the regular meeting agenda until the agenda of the Commission was changed in a 2-1 vote. That change back in December saw the commissioner comment portion completely removed from the agenda.
As Nolte begins his comments you can see Commissioner Ridgeway hover around Nolte. It’s hard to understand from our video but it appears she says something about Sunshine Law in reference to him making the comments.
We were at the Commission meeting last week and posted the full video of his comments on Facebook Live. You can watch them below.
We also have most of the comments on our YouTube channel that came from the stationary camera we use every week. This video does not contain the full comments as we failed to start that camera when he started talking. The full text is at the bottom of this report.
After the meeting began, you can hear Commissioner Ridgeway make an official objection for the record just prior to the agenda approval.
“For the record, there were three Commissioners in the room and County business was being discussed. It was not a meeting called pursuant to Sunshine law. As a result, I believe the comments that were made in public were in violation to Sunshine Law.”
Commissioner Nolte sent us his full comments, you can read them below:
Last April, Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen twice forced an early adjournment of a Commission meeting evading their responsibilities to review the County Administrator’s contract. Now that they are safely reelected, on March 27th an agreement was signed for a new contract with the County Administrator. This document was signed in secret at a closed meeting; the people were not made aware of this agreement until it was executed. By signing this contract Commissioner Ridgeway betrayed the trust the citizens of this county gave her last November and her Oath of Office.
This contract, prepared by the Administrator’s lawyers, was accepted with very few changes and little or no negotiations. According to the contract, the taxpayers of Clay County will also be stuck with the legal bills accumulated by the Administrator during these negotiations.
I believe this contract unlawfully restricts the ability of citizens to hold the elected County Commissioners accountable and infringes on our rights under the First Amendment. When citizens are permitted to address the Commission, the Commissioners my not “engage in debate during a public meeting”, but defer to the Administrator. This is a gag order prohibiting Commissioners from answering policy questions has serious First Amendment implications. It allows Commissioners to hide behind a wall of bureaucracy they built and claim no responsibility to answer to the citizens we should serve. The citizens of this county deserve better, they deserve answers to their legitimate questions from their elected officials.
The Associate Commissioners spinelessly handed over even more of the lawful authority of the Commission to an unelected official. Like Commissioner Ridgeway’s 2017-ORD-2, where authority to sign off on expenses was given to the Administrator in contradiction of our responsibilities to taxpayers under Revised Statutes of Missouri, Section 50.815.4 requiring Commissioners to certify that they “check every receipt from every source of every disbursement of every kind” under penalty of law by the first Monday in March. As of March 27, Commissioner Ridgeway had signed off on 60% of the 2016 expense warrants.
There is a provision approved by Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen that grants a six figure golden parachute to the Administrator. On top of that, there is no limit to the accumulated sick, comp and vacation pay, which is unheard of in the private sector. A recent example of a similar provision is the retirement of Kansas City Police Chief Forte, who has reportedly accumulated nearly $500,000 in sick, comp and vacation pay. The taxpayers of Clay County can not afford such extravagance.
Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen have given authority to the Administrator,”over all County facilities including but not limited to alterations, demolition and new construction.” This transfer of power to an unelected official is in contradiction of Missouri Statutes; 49.310, 49.320, 49.330, 49.370 and 49.470.
And finally, all provisions for professional and ethical standards have been removed. In the previous contract, the Administrator was bound by the professional and ethical guidelines of the International City/County Management Association. Those are guidelines followed by almost every city manager in the Clay County and around the world. This removes nearly every means of accountability that was formally in place.
There are additional serious issues with this contract that I will not go into at this time. In my opinion this contract is an abomination and a slap in the face to the citizens of Clay County. The Commissioners are being transformed into high priced figureheads. It reduces transparency, accountability and the ability of citizens to redress their government with grievances. The actions of Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen create a de facto Charter form of government without a vote of the people of even open public discussion. I refused to sign it and condemn it as possibly the most shameless abdication of power by elected officials I have ever experienced.