Sunday, August 2, 2015

Missouri Senate President Tom Dempsey Ends A Long And Productive Political Career


By Judge Michael Carter

Missouri Senate President Tom Dempsey resigned as the leader of the State Senate and from the Missouri General Assembly in a heartfelt and moving statement released July 31st.  It came as a surprise to many who have become accustomed to following the political career trajectories of those in Jefferson City, but not to those in St. Charles who knew that Senator Dempsey remained, at heart, a man of the people.  There are those who cheered him on as he rose from a City Councilman, to State Representative, then the State Senate, and the President of that powerful elected body.  Many, like myself, expected Senator Dempsey to be Governor one day.  He had the talent and the skill to have made that jump, but he also had something sorely lacking in too many elected public officials today.  Tom Dempsey had a sense of perspective.

His two page letter of resignation explains eloquently the trade off of career and family; the lost time he had to spend away from his wife and family five months out of the year when the legislature was in session.  He talks about the loss of his mother two years before and how it moved him to reassess his priorities.
Senator Tom Dempsey

Senator Tom Dempsey was exceptionally nice each time I dealt with him.  He was responsive and shared my views on the abuse of red light cameras.  Listened to my concerns about the special interest restrictions the legislature had placed on the ability of local governments to dismiss a police chief when deemed necessary.  Even on the controversial Senate Bill 5, which I felt went too far in stripping municipal judges of some discretion in sentencing, Senator Dempsey and his office listened to my suggestions and kept me well informed of the bill's progress.  Most everyone I have spoken with in Jefferson City has had similar experiences dealing with Senator Dempsey.

It also seemed to me that Senator Dempsey, like old St. Charles, was from a simpler, more honest, and straightforward time.  The harsh slash and burn political climate and gamesmanship that poisons progress was not his style.  Tom Dempsey liked to get things done and didn't feel you had to end up hating someone you simply disagreed with over an issue.  His letter of resignation proudly lists many of the things he was able to help bring about as President of the State Senate, despite the bitter atmosphere of government today.

So for his 17 years of public service, we thank State Senator Tom Dempsey and wish him well in his new career.  We also thank him for not letting Jefferson City change who he is and we say welcome home Senator.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Wentzville City Survey -- Should Personal Fireworks Be Legal on 4th?

Wentzville's Mayor Guccione and The Board of Aldermen are asking citizens to weigh in on whether personal fireworks should be legal on the day of the 4th of July.

Currently, personal fireworks are illegal in the City of Wentzville.

You can participate in the survey by clicking this link:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Twenty Percent Municipal Traffic Fine Cap Compromise -- MO House Version of Senate Bill 5 Will Be Given Third Reading (summary)

Jefferson City, April 21, 2015

The Missouri House will be presenting its version of the much debated Senate Bill 5 concerning municipal court rules and revenues in the State of Missouri. This will be the third Reading and only technical corrective amendments may be introduced at this stage in the HOUSE. Most noteworthy are the following:

1) The percentage of a city's revenue that may come from traffic fines will cap out at 20 percent (15% in St. Louis County);

2) The Missouri Supreme Court shall be compelled to establish ethical conflict rules for municipal court judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys;

3) Municipal courts must offer on-line payment options and/or accept payments by mail;

4) Defendants shall not be confined simply for failing to pay a fine;

5) No court costs shall be allowed if a case is dismissed;

6) Defendants shall not to be detained in order to coerce payments of fines and/or costs;

7) Courts may not assess additional fees for "failure to appear" (FTA) charges;

8) Court rooms must be large enough to accommodate the public (no lines around building);

Judge-Elect Mike Carter
Judge-elect, Mike Carter, of the City of Wentzville says "Nearly all of these changes were policies that we began implementing in Wentzville back in 2009. It was not easy to convince everyone back then, but upon reflection, I am quite proud of what our court started back then before it was vogue to do so."

Carter was the judge from 2009-2011 and was re-elected for the 2015-2017 term on April 7th of this year.

In order for Senate Bill 5 to become law, the house must first send its version back to the senate and if approved the governor must sign it.  A call to the governor's office reveals that there is no word on the governor's intent to sign Senate Bill 5.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wentzville Mayor Releases Statement Regarding Police Chief Settlement (copied here)

I, as Mayor of the City of Wentzville, wish to ensure open communication and transparency within our government. Due to concerns that rumors and misinformation have been spread regarding the settlement of a recent lawsuit, I wish to share the following:

In April 2014, the then-current Chief of Police for the City of Wentzville filed a lawsuit against the City of Wentzville, its Mayor, one current Alderman, one former Alderman, two Wentzville police officers, a St. Charles City police officer and the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney. 

The plaintiff claimed that certain individuals interfered with her right to privacy due to two separate instances where two police officers, one employed by the City of St. Charles and one employed by the City of Wentzville, ran the license plate of a vehicle that was used by a social acquaintance of plaintiff. The two officers confirmed running the license plate. Both ran the plate at different places, dates and time and for different reasons. 

The Wentzville Police Department conducted an internal investigation of the conduct by the Wentzville police officer and requested that other jurisdictions investigate the matter as well. Neither officer was charged with any criminal conduct. Both officers stated it was their own decision to run the plate and there was no one else that requested that they do so. 

There was no evidence presented that any elected official of the City of Wentzville directed either officer to run the license plate.

The plaintiff claimed that certain elected officials of the City had treated her differently than other employees. The City and the elected officials denied and continue to deny the plaintiff’s allegations. I treated the Police Chief in the same professional manner that I treated the other department directors.

The City has a contractual agreement with an insurance company in order to protect the City and its employees and elected officials on a variety of risk management situations. The City’s insurance company provides legal counsel to the City in the defense of lawsuits. After the parties engage in discovery to develop the facts of a case, the insurance company and its attorney perform a risk analysis to assess the level of risk in every case. 

In the lawsuit that was just settled, based on the information presented during the discovery process, no evidence was provided that implicated any elected official of the City of Wentzville.

After conducting written discovery, but before incurring potentially significant costs associated with conducting depositions, the City defendants and the plaintiff, along with their respective attorneys agreed to meet with a mediator in an effort to resolve the lawsuit in the best interest of all parties.

Following negotiations with the help of the mediator, the City defendants and the plaintiff agreed to a settlement that included the voluntary resignation of the plaintiff. Although the City’s insurance company agreed to pay approximately $197,000 to stop the litigation from proceeding, the City only agreed to pay approximately $27,000, which is equal to three months of severance in compliance with the plaintiff’s employment contract. The City also agreed to provide the plaintiff with up to 12 months of insurance coverage at the same cost as active employees. 

The attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the attorney appointed by the insurance company are being paid by the insurance company, not the City. Through the settlement, the parties were able to avoid the risks and expense of further litigation and the City was able to put itself in a position to move forward in providing excellent services to its residents without the burden of a lawsuit that the City felt lacked any legitimate basis.

Settlement of this case was an economic decision and was mutually agreed to by the City defendants and the plaintiff.

Mayor Nick Guccione


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Editorial: Wentzville Police Chief Resigns, Harassment Suit “AbsoluteAbuse Of The Legal System” According To Prosecutor

This week it was announced that Ms. Harrison had voluntarily resigned as Chief of Police of Wentzville. She and the City of Wentzville have settled out of court. Anyone familiar with these matters knows that the insurance carriers for public entities usually insist on settlements to make such nuisance law suits go away to save on protracted legal costs.

Former Wentzville Police Chief Lisa Harrison
Harrison's suit came about after she asked the St. Charles County Prosecutor to file criminal charges against certain police officers. The reason for her request was that she believed these officers had run the license plate number of a vehicle that belonged to a person she was dating and was parked outside her home.  She claimed that the Mayor and several Aldermen were “conspiring” to spy on her.  

When the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney informed her that no crime had been committed to justify pressing charges, she retaliated by filing suit.

Harrison’s barrage of lawsuits targeted eight others besides the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney including the City of Wentzville, the City of St. Charles, the Wentzville's Mayor, and several of Wentzville's aldermen.  Did we leave anybody out?

In response to the suit, Republican St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar was quoted in the St. Louis Post Dispatch as saying, "this is an absolute abuse of the legal system."

All of the named defendants in the suit deny any and all allegations of wrongdoing.  Although only the suits with the City of Wentzville and Wentzville’s officials was settled, we feel certain that the remaining defendants will have little trouble in defending themselves against these revenge-fueled frivolous law suits.

While the law suit itself is frivolous, it gives the City of Wentzville an opportunity to learn an important lesson. Due to a law that was passed a few years ago at the urging of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, it is nearly impossible for a City to ever fire a police chief.  This type of "bureaucrat protection law" gives ineffective or bad police chiefs the leverage to say if you want me to leave you will have to pay me to go.  This state law needs to be changed.

In addition to this, the City needs to look to the metropolitan region for a new Chief of Police rather than another nationwide search. People who know our county, know our people, and have a positive reputation with other law enforcement agencies are the best candidates for this position. Initial indications are that message will resonate this time around with those at City Hall.

Seniors & Disabled May Qualify For Utility Tax Rebate From Wentzville

From April 1 through May 30, eligible Wentzville residents may apply for a City-utility tax refund.  The refund is that portion of the “City Tax” or “Franchise Tax” listed on the resident’s electric, gas and phone bills.  The application is for a refusnd of all franchise taxes paid on these utilities during 2014.

To be eligible for the refund, individuals must rent or own their own residence in the City of Wentzville, be at least 65 years old or be designated totally disabled by Social Security, and have a maximum 2014 gross income of not more than $37,600 for a single-person household and $43,000 for a married-couple household.  This refund program is based on your total gross income for filing year 2014, social security income included.

Residents may apply for the refund at City Hall, 310 W. Pearce Blvd., or at the Public Works facility, 200 E. Fourth St.. Residents will need to bring proof of residency (such as a current utility bill), income, age and/or disability, and copies of their gas, electric and primary phone bills for 2014.  Also, to comply with Missouri’s section 208.009, which prohibits a local public benefit being distributed to illegal aliens, residents will be required to present one of the following: a driver’s license, Social Security card or birth certificate.  For more information, please call the Finance Department at (636) 639-2155.             

Editorial: Michael Hays Has Earned Re-Election In Ward Three

Alderman Michael Hays, Ward Three, has always been the type of person to roll up his sleeves and pitch in to help.  As a founding member of the Wentzville Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Hays helped bring together other citizen volunteers like himself.  They receive basic disaster response skills and training and form an organization of volunteer emergency workers to supplement existing emergency responders in the event of a major disaster.  Hays believes in being prepared and keeping our community safe.
Alderman Michael Hays

Hays bring another set of valuable skills to his role as Alderman.  He spent nearly two-decades serving on the Wentzville Planning & Zoning Commission.  That gives Michael Hays a wealth of institutional knowledge of our city, zoning codes and proper city planning.  He knows what it takes to protect residential property values from the encroachment of incompatible development.  He has always worked to encourage the right kind of economic development.

As a member of the Board of Aldermen, Michael Hays has also been a vital part of the team that has been so successful in bringing jobs and new business to Wentzville.  He receives high marks from Mayor Nick Guccione who has also endorsed Hays for re-election.

“It is a pleasure working with such a dedicated public servant as Alderman Michael Hays.  He always puts the good of our community first.  His extensive knowledge from his time on the Planning and Zoning Commission have helped our city  to grow and prosper, while providing a high quality of life for  residents of all ages,” said Guccione.

Michael Hays also offers the most comprehensive platform of what he stands for and will work towards as Alderman.  His ten point platform includes: Keeping Wentzville a safe place to live, listening and being responsive to Ward three residents, maintaining the financial stability of the city, protecting property values, keeping our city clean and livable, maintaining streets and infrastructure, continuing to attract jobs and compatible development, maintaining and improving our parks, promoting sustainable growth, and keeping taxes low.

Hays opponent is no doubt a well meaning individual, but Ward Three voters get so much more benefit from having an experienced Alderman, who believes in always being prepared.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Commentary: Wentzville Mayor Endorses Shryock for Alderman; Opponent Says Different?

Mayor Nick Guccione has made his position clear -- "I unequivocally endorsed Sonya Shryock for Wentzville's Ward 2 Aldermanic Race." So, does it matter that the other Ward 2 candidate wants Wentzville voters to think differently?

When Larry Tucker resigned as Economic Development Manager for the City of Wentzville, the Mayor politely sent him the standard farewell and good luck letter one would expect. That letter resurfaced recently on a political website for now candidate Larry Tucker which he calls a "letter of commendation" from the Mayor.  Mayor Nick Guccione has told The New Wentzvillian that the letter is not an endorsement nor letter of commendation, but simply a letter of goodbye on Tucker's exit from city employment.  

Sonya Shryock
What makes it all the more ridiculous for Tucker to be using the letter in this way, is that the Mayor is supporting the opponent, Sonya Shryock.
Mayor Nick Guccione

Tucker left his job with the City of Wentzville to take a job promoting economic development for Lincoln County.  Putting the letter on a political website could fool voters into thinking Tucker has the Mayor's support.  Tucker also chose to post city press releases on official city letterhead and using the city logo which many say violates city rules against using the logo for political purposes.

What also struck us as strange at The New Wentzvillian was Tucker appearing to take credit on the web site for every business that came to Wentzville or job that was created when he worked here.  Private industry makes decisions on where they want to be based on a multitude of factors including location, taxes, construction costs, work force availability, transportation, where their customers are, the overall livability of a community, and its political stability.  None of these factors did Mr. Tucker have any control over.

Taking credit for all the good economic news that has happened in Wentzville probably helped Mr. Tucker land his job with Lincoln County, but his career move raises questions about potential conflicts of interest were he to be elected to the Board of Aldermen.  If he were to learn information about a business or industry wanting to locate in Wentzville, would he try diverting it to Lincoln County or vice versa?

Larry Tucker
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 recently filed to run 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.

In fact, according to State Representative Brian Spencer this has already begun. Spencer tells the New Wentzvillian that when Tucker recently disagreed with Representative Spencer questioning Tucker serving in both Wentzville and Lincoln county simultaneously, Tucker took to contacting other elected officials, resorting to name calling and other anger-motivated tactics. "I was floored," said Spencer.

Ward Two voters are right to have questions about Larry Tucker's candidacy.  Mr. Tucker would do better to focus on his new job with Lincoln County and move on.