The divide between two groups on the Arnold City Council grew wider last Thursday after each side butted heads three times.
The groups were divided into two camps: one with Ward 1 Councilwoman Doris Borgelt and the other with Mayor Ron Counts. Both have announced their intent to run for mayor in April 2013.
How it started Thursday
It began Thursday when Borgelt took the floor and accused the council of trying to wrongly impeach one of their own.
“We as a council held a closed session that was supposed to be regarding personnel. In reality, that session was closed in an attempt to oust a fellow city council member. When he was not receptive to resigning, an attempt to force him out by drawing up articles of impeachment was discussed,” Borgelt said.
She said the public should ask for an audit from the state and that this action violated Missouri’s open meeting laws.
“Ms. Borgelt, by stepping down to the podium, actually took herself out of the umbrella of city protection. She’s not really doing this right,” responded Ward 2 Councilman Bill Moritz.
City Attorney Robert Sweeney said Borgelt refrained from naming anyone discussed during the closed session. He confirmed that actions against elected officials need to be handled in public view, but that the council did not take any such actions.
City officials would not state on the record who was asked to resign or was threatened with impeachment.
Second scuffle of the evening
Later in the evening, Counts attempted to appoint a new member to the Planning Commission. Counts suggested Jason Fulbright, an independent contractor and volunteer at the Arnold Farmer’s Market, to replace retiring Roy Wilde. The appointment needed the approval of the council, but was voted down 5 to 3.
Ward 2 Councilwoman Michelle Hohmeier, who often votes with Borgelt, asked about Fulbright’s background. She said his resume listed work in local campaigns.
“Do we know whose city campaign he his working on?” asked Hohmeier.
The mayor responded that he did not know who Fulbright was working for and that it would be irrelevant.
“The last time I spoke with Jason, he said he was your campaign manager,” Borgelt said.
“No, ma'am, he’s not my campaign manager,” Counts responded firmly. “You got your wires crossed lady.”
Borgelt and Hohmeier voted against the appointment, along with Ward 4 Councilwoman Sandra Kownacki, Ward 4 Councilman Kenneth Moss and Ward 1 Councilwoman Christine Lang.
Borgelt told Patch it wasn’t just politics when she voted against Fulbright.
“He’s in Ward 2. That would make five members from Ward 2,” she said. The council is not required to pick a planning commissioner from each ward, but Borgelt said it wouldn’t be fair to have a majority of members from the same ward.
The final divisive issue
The most unusual show of political turmoil came up during a vote to go into closed executive session after the open meeting. A closed session vote is normally passed without question, but this night was voted down 5 to 3. Borgelt, Hohmeier, Kownacki, Moss and Lang again stood together and voted against going into closed session.
Sweeney told Patch that he has never seen a council refuse to go into closed session. He also said there was an important real estate issue that needed immediate council attention during the private session and could jeopardize about 200 new jobs coming to the city.
Lang told Patch after the meeting that council members were not informed of the executive session’s agenda and that she and others did not feel comfortable heading into a closed meeting uninformed. She was confident the council would call an emergency executive session if it was needed before the next meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 18.
The city council is only required by law to reveal issues that are voted on during closed session. Specific items under discussion are not required to be made public.