|Larry Tucker, Lincoln County|
Current Wentzville aldermanic candidate Larry Tucker resigned as the Economic Development Director of Wentzville and then voluntarily took a job as an economic developer for Lincoln County. He also ran last year unsuccessfully against Sonya Shryock for Alderman of Wentzville. Sonya Shryock garnered 64.79% of the votes while Larry Tucker managed 34.68%.
The potential conflict of interest between his job for Lincoln County and serving as an alderman in Wentzville was a hotly debated issue in that election. It was likely one factor in his loss to Shryock. Should voters be concerned about this issue?
Since then the Wentzville Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance that would prevent key employees of other governments from serving both as an elected public official in Wentzville and being employed in a managerial, supervisory and or policy-making position for county and municipal governments in St. Charles County and adjoining counties. It doesn't bar Mr. Tucker from running, but he would have to give up his job with Lincoln County if elected.
Larry Tucker is running again, this time against Alderman Michael Rhoades. Word is that he's also said that if he wins and isn't seated he will sue the city.
Not many people run for office promising to sue the city. It would be unfortunate for the taxpayers of Wentzville who would end up bearing the cost of the litigation. There is some precedent for other governmental bodies requiring that elected public officials not serve in paid governmental positions elsewhere. For instance, one cannot remain a public high school teacher and serve even part time in Missouri's General Assembly -- ask our local State Representative Bryan Spencer about that. Yes, Rep. Spencer had to quit his teaching job to serve the people of Missouri.
In this case, the Wentzville ordinance creates a more localized avoidance of conflict. It is worth noting that Alderman Michael Rhoades, against whom Mr. tucker is running in this election, voted against the new restriction.
|Alderman Michael Rhoades Center Left|
The question of whether or not there is an inherent conflict of interest comes down to the fact that members of the Board of Aldermen are often provided information on economic development leads and prospects. If a potential business or industry were also talking to Mr. Tucker in his capacity as an economic development person for Lincoln county, there could be a conflict.
Mr. Tucker says he would voluntarily recuse himself from such situations, but does his current employer know that may keep him from following up on or competing for potential prospects for them? How would we know if he was gaining inside information that helped him get a jump on winning the relocation of a business or industry to Lincoln County that might otherwise have come to Wentzville?
Part of the problem is how competitive cities and counties must be with each other these days to promote themselves and to attract business and industry and good paying quality job prospects.
The issue of real or perceived conflict of interests aside, there is still the issue of whether or not it is a good decision to elect a former city employee. Imagine if someone quit the firm or business you work for and then came back in as a boss over his fellow co-workers and supervisors. Larry Tucker resigned as the Economic Development Director of Wentzville and voluntarily took a job as an economic developer for Lincoln County.
As we wrote in an editorial the last time Mr. Tucker ran for alderman, ex-employees have a long history of trying to get elected in the jurisdictions of their former employers. The ex-Fire Chief of the O'Fallon Fire Protection District ran for the O'Fallon Fire Protection District Board of Directors. While there may be a strong motivation for wanting to become the boss of your ex-boss, these situations often lead to recrimination and hostilities.
It is best not to create situations where anyone with an axe to grind gets to be the boss of their old boss or employees who they may or may not have gotten along with. This coming Tuesday, April 5th, that is the judgment the voters are in the best position to make.