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Alderwoman Colter removed from MV council, which now has only 2 seats filled


MOUNTAIN VIEW — Tuesday night's meeting of the Mtn. View City Council ended about 12 minutes after it started, following Mayor Jim Krasuski's opening announcement he had spoken with independent counsel about state law regarding nepotism, and discovered the council was wrong in allowing Brenda Colter to vote on the appointment of Judi Colter.

"Due to certain circumstances I've got to interject a little commentary of what we have to do,” Krasuski started. "We had hired an attorney that specializes in municipal law due to some calls that were made all over the place; I know everybody said they called everywhere. We were made aware of some things going on that we weren't made aware of, some things going on we didn't know, or things we didn't know we were doing wrong or we made a mistake. So we were instructed to correct it first thing, which is kind of weird."

Krasuski went on to say he had spoken to the legal counsel about an hour before the meeting and there had to be some adjustments.

The law was then read aloud by Mtn. View City Attorney Deedra Nicholson, citing a degree of familial relationship that meant Brenda Colter's vote for the appointment of Judi Colter, who is a cousin by marriage, was against state law.

"Pursuant to our independent counsel, he let us know we needed to go ahead and move forward with the fact that under Missouri Constitution Article 7, subsection 6, any public officer or employee in the state, who by virtue of his office or employment, names or appoints to public office or employment any relative within the fourth degree by consanguinity or affinity shall thereby forfeit his office or employment.

"What this means is we had an incident back in December where the first cousin by marriage of a sitting alderman was appointed to the council by a vote that included that sitting alderman and they did not abstain. So what that means is that as of the time that vote happened the sitting alderman's seat was forfeit, which means at this point we have only two sitting council members," she concluded.

The reading was met by silence from the audience as Brenda Colter was told by Krasuski to have a seat elsewhere.

"So you're asking me to step down?" Colter responded.

"Oh, no, I'm not," Krasuski replied. "The state is."

Colter then asked the name of the person that called and Nicholson answered it was attorney Nathan Nickolaus, before countering that she had also spoken to them, and was told as long as Judi stepped down, she wasn't at fault herself.

Judi Colter was removed from council in January after members decided not to affirm the appointment and instead wait for voters to decide during the April 2 municipal election. Judi Colter has served on the council before and is running unopposed for a two-year term as east ward alderman.

Additionally, there are two candidates for a one-year term now being filled by appointee Bud Vines, who replaced Steven Sills after his resignation in November. Vines has chosen not to run and Vicki Carr and David Bauer will be on the ballot.

West Ward Alderman Lindell Vandevort has also decided not run for reelection as a West Ward alderman, and Calvin Perry and Lucinda Burton are candidates for that two year term, meaning the next council will be made of three new council members. Plans for filling the remainder of Brenda Colter's term were not discussed. Krasuski is running unopposed for a two-year term as mayor.

Reacting to the ouster, Brenda Colter continued to question the action and Nicholson responded that the council had waited as long as it could to keep council business moving, but had been informed of the latest update and had reached the point there was a definitive answer.

Several in the audience accused Krasuski of making a push to have Colter removed.

"I'm sorry, but believe it or not, whoever's been calling the attorney general, they called me and called our city clerk, and said we had to, by law, follow through with this. We have to. We didn't have any choice," Krasuski said.

He also mentioned the city government was also told it had to follow up on allegations against City Clerk Sara Chowning, who has been absent from her duty as a recordkeeper for city council meetings for the past couple of months.

Krasuski emphasized there are no charges at this point, but by law, an investigation has to be completed. Nicholson reminded the council and audience members she cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, and advised Krasuski not to as well.

The mayor did go on to say that the city is going to have to pay for the first $10,000 of attorney fees related to that investigation, and the city's insurance would pick up the remainder, which would likely be an additional $90,000. He told the audience he was saying so to get ahead of any questions there might be about the investigation under the Sunshine Law, and reminded those present there are still no charges.

At that time an audience member stated since there was no longer a quorum, the meeting couldn't continue. Nicholson pointed out as long as there wasn't a vote on ordinances, the remaining council members could approve measures like the paying of bills, as long as those bills were nothing out of the ordinary and were "a matter of course" for council action.

Krasuski thanked Colter for her service and she thanked Vandevort and Vines for their support as she exited the meeting. After a further brief discussion between Krasuski, audience members and Nicholson about the quorum as applied by Mtn. View city and Missouri state law, Vandevort and Vines voted to end the meeting with no agenda items addressed until a quorum could be established under the requirement of state law.

Under old business, those agenda items had included a presentation by a Missouri Public Utility Alliance representative regarding cost savings on electricity, an update on a lead services project, the second reading and final vote on a resolution and three ordinances.

Under new business, the council was going to be asked to approve a bid for window cleaning, and discussions were on the agenda for a police safety grant, city street conditions, the Buck Nelson Festival and 2024 rates at the municipal golf course.