Another Contentious University City Meeting Stars Council Members Kraft, Carr & Crow
November 04, 2015
Through the first 90 minutes of its Oct. 26 meeting, the City Council of University City got some work done, approving contracts to renovate a city-owned building in the Delmar Loop and to collect leaves from residential curbsides.
But then everyone dropped his (and her) gloves and the rough stuff began.
Council Member Stephen Kraft began the row by offering a motion to curb council discussion during the "council reports" portion of its agenda, which comes at the end of each session. He explained that he was introducing the motion because Council Member Paulette Carr uses her reporting privileges to spin yarns and tell lies.
"Lies or misrepresentations or misunderstanding of facts can have serious consequences," Kraft said. "They can create a world where truth is meaningless and we follow the most convincing storyteller – perhaps the Tea Party – or maybe we follow the most powerful storyteller, like the old Communist Party in the Soviet Union."
Kraft conceded that Carr's alleged lies and fanciful stories "are not as dangerous as those of the Tea Party or the Communist Party. However … they create a similarly distorted fantasy world."
Coming to Carr's defense, Council Member Terry Crow reminded Kraft that "there is only one member of this council that we all know lied into a camera" when attempting to explain a vulgar epithet he had mouthed at a citizen who was addressing the council. Kraft later was reprimanded by the council and apologized for the incident, which was captured on video and became a popular item on YouTube.
Kraft killed his own motion by asking that Mayor Shelley Welsch rule it out of order, which she did. But the verbal fisticuffs were just beginning.
After upbraiding Kraft, Crow turned to City Manager Lehman Walker, whom he castigated for failure to answer his requests for information. Walker uses legalistic excuses to fend off requests for information from council members he holds in disfavor, according to Crow.
"I do believe the idea of the 'haves and the have nots' continues to be very apparent here," Crow said.
Carr joined Crow in alleging Walker had deflected requests for information, dodging calls and leaving letters and emails unanswered, even when submitted under the Missouri Sunshine Law.
"It's been two years now since he stopped taking my telephone calls," said Carr.
Once she was told she would be billed $400 in copying fees when she persisted in a long-ignored request for records, Carr said.
"I really don't understand what is going on," said Carr. "I don't think my constituents appreciate that I cannot look at something and oversee it … I don't think that's the way the city should be operated. I don't know what to do anymore."
Walker denied ever refusing a bona fide request for information from a council member, or dodging phone calls. After the council meeting, he blasted back at Carr and Crow.
"We've got two members of the council that are acting contrary to the interests of the city," said Walker. "He's (Crow's) sitting there … basically trying to lead us down a road that is not in the best interests of the city – contrary to what he is sworn to do as a member of the council.
"This angers me that you have a sitting member of the council … knowing full well that he is jeopardizing the city's legal position, all in the interest of playing politics and cozying up to the fire fighters union," he said. "He knows damned well he shouldn't be asking those questions."
Walker's reference was to a suit filed by the Eastern Missouri Chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 2665, seeking a court order forcing the city to honor its collective bargaining agreement with the union. A temporary order was issued Oct. 5 instructing the city to obey the agreement.
The city on Sept. 1 contracted with Gateway Ambulance of St. Louis to handle the city's ambulance traffic. The court order backed the collective bargaining agreement, which stipulates that city fire stations be continuously staffed by a minimum of 11 personnel, and that two firefighters/paramedics be assigned to each ambulance.
Mayor Shelley Welsch has circulated a "Connect the Points" bulletin alleging that Crow and Carr are heavily politically involved with Local 2665. The newsletter says the local contributed substantially to three unsuccessful city council candidates in the 2014 municipal election, and is now supporting efforts to recall the mayor and Kraft.
Carr and Crow say their motivations concern only the welfare of the citizens of University City.
Crow reiterated his belief that his questions are perfectly proper, and re-enumerated them during the meeting. They regard the city's staffing and the operating condition of its two ambulances.
"Those questions and the answers are not issues of litigation," said Crow. "They are contractual questions."