Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ethics Charges Filed Against Mayor Collins

A Springfield attorney is filing ethics charges against Mayor Jim Collins, who is currently locked in a heated campaign for the 134th legislative district seat.

Attorney Richard Crites appeared at the city of Republic's meeting Monday to announce he is filing nepotism charges against Collins. Collins has submitted the complaint to Attorney General Jay Nixon. Crites says Collins' wife Linda should not be allowed to serve on the "Mayor's Commission for Children and the Republic Fine Arts Council in Republic."

Crites charges that the mayor's appointment of his wife to those jobs violates the nepotism prohibition in the Missouri Constitution. That clause reads:

"Any public officer or employee in this 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."

When I asked Crites why he was moving forward with this charge, he said several residents had approached him about the topic and that the move was not politically motivated.


oldnewsreporter said...

I am pretty sure that Collins could appoint whomever he chooses to boards that do not have a vote...give me a break, so politicians wives can't serve on children's boards or fine arts councils? You guys need to find a life.
When Crites told KY3 that this was not politically motivated, that is a crock because Collins' wife has been in those positions for over a year! This problem is just now showing up?
Come on KY3, let's find out whose names are associated with these actions and you will find out how politically motivated this really is!smile

RepublicFamily said...

As a reader of the KY3 blog and numberous comments and questions about Collins this event does not surprise me. I had heard something was going to happen at that council meeting but I had no idea what it was going to be. Of course, Jim's daughter-in-law is appointed to at least one commission also.

Of course, this comes just one day after the News-Leader printed two letters (one for a dauther-in-law and anther for Collin's biggest campaign donor) talking about Collin's great character.

Retiredreporter said...

The cited state statue does seem pretty clear. Most folks are probably not aware of it.

I guess either these commissions are important or they are not. Oldnewsreporter wants to make it sound like it is not that big of a deal. No monies being spent. No big decisions being made. But, when Collins was on KSGF talking about all of the great things he has done for Republic these commissions were one of the things he talked about the most. He mentioned how so many Republic citizens were involved and that these commissions were doing important work and making important decisions for the city.

Of course, if THAT many citizens were involved he would not need to appoint his wife to these two commissions and his daugther-in-law to the communication's commission.

So the question may be, are the commissions important or not? If not, then stop campaigning about their importance. If so, then state law is clear.

As for political motivation ... this is not the first legal charge made against the city of Republic during Collin's tenure. Many have been hard to prove with legal certainity (like illegal use of city funds in support of the Brookline merger campaign). Is attorney Crites an active Republican donor or Viebrock supporter?

That is my two cents worth.

unitedstatesfirst said...

People like "republicfamily" always amaze me. They whine and complain about those that are trying to do good things but never offer to help. Mayor Collins has tried to work very hard to make the republic area a better and safer place to live. He has formed many, many groups to try and improve and work on problems that the area has (drugs, child abuse, etc). These are NON-PAYING AND VOLUNTEER. He has asked many times for help, has had meetings for volunteers, and has got some great people that care about familys and southwest missouri to help. I checked your name "republicfamily" and i see you have not volunteered for anything. If you spent half as much time helping as you do complaining you could make a real difference for our future and children's future. Take 5 minutes from spewing your poison and call Mr Collins and see were you can help!

Kathleen Haralson said...

Again, I feel the need to set the record straight. Mayor Colliins does mention alot about the commissions he has implemented in his campaigning. They are important because they are there to get the valuable imput from citizens in this community. These are non-voting, non-paid, volunteer citizen commissions. They are not "public office" because these commissions hold no voting power or decision-making power. We do make suggestions to the BOA based on our task at hand. Then the BOA takes those suggestions under advisement and makes the final decision on whether to implement those suggestions or not. Does that mean they are not important? Absolutely not! It is important to get citizen imput into the changes they would like to see in their city -- they have nothing to do with changing the government structure -- just helping improve the community as a whole. As to why his wife is on those commissions or myself -- we live in Republic and have a vested interest in seeing it improve. I raise my children here and I want it to remain a wonderful place to grow-up. These children are Linda's grandchildren -- so she has an interest also. Neither of us head these commissions, however. There are other citizens involved besides us. In fact, I would love to see even more citizens involved. I would gladly give up my seat on my commission, although I love what I do, to someone else -- if anyone else would like to participate. I have served on the Communications Comission for two years. It's time for some other "republicfamily" to give up one hour per month to add a bit of citizen input to our meeting. We meet the third Thursday of every month at 7:30 pm in the Republic Community Center. The meetings are posted outside city hall, so check for changes to that schedule that sometimes occur.

I am appalled that anyone would suggest that Linda being on these commissions is nepatism. KY3, you need to check your facts a bit more before reporting such irroneous information. News is not about sensationalism. And, if you really believe this is not politically motivated, you are sadly mistaken. I'm surprised they didn't say anything about me being on a commission. But, I guess they knew since I posted here once before that I was his STEP-daughter-in-law, that they would really have egg on their faces.

And, yes, I did write a letter to the editor in support of Jim. That is my right as an American citizen to support anyone I choose and to make it known by word or deed. It might interest you to know that Jim's entire family supports him wholly. His children and his STEP-children. How many blended families can say that?

RepublicFamily said...

UnitedStatesFirst (I assume that is a play off Viebrock's MissouriFirst.com website and that you are in opposition to him) is getting a bit worked up. I'm not sure what "poison" you are talking about. This blog is for the sharing of comments and ideas, right? Criticism of elected officials is still allowed in Republic, right?

I think one of the reporters mentioned in postings several weeks ago that folks who respond defensively to questions about the government are usually part of the government in question. Seems your response is pretty defensive.

Don't know what list your checking but you are mistaken. And of course, whether or not I am involved is not the point of the state statue in question which, of course, says nothing about the appointments of volunteers being less important than appointments to paid positions. There are lots of volunteer positions that are very important. The statue law doesn't seem to make a distinction.

By the way, city government is not the answer to the community issues you said Mayor Collins is trying to fix: drugs, child abuse. As a pastor he would know that the strength and well-being of the family is the major defense against these issues and city government can to nothing to strengthen the state of the American family. It is really more of a moral issue (gasp).

Why not address the merits of the ethics charge instead of spending your time trying to decide who I am and whether or not I deserve to make comments on a blog.

AshGrovePirateGuy said...

It sounds like you folks in Republic have a mess. The timing of this complaint does seem odd. But, KY3 hasn't done anything wrong, they have just reported what happened at the meeting about the complaint. Right? I don't see any opinion coming from them.

Did OK Armstrong have some involvement with this? He seems to get blamed for everything else.

I'd have to agree with some of the earlier bloggers, the more I read the more it seems to me that two of the candidates offer nothing but politics as usual. If Collins is attracking this type of negative response as a Mayor think about how much worse it would be as a State Representative! Then, it really would be my concern because it would impact the Ash Grove and Walnut Grove areas.

The Raven of Magenta said...

Ok, republicfamily, lets discuss those "merits of the ethics charge...". According to my sources, which include a prominent Springfield attorney, the state does actually clarify the definitions of public officer and employee of the state. In this case,the commissions in question are the mayors commission for children and the Republic fine arts council. Neither of these commissions do any voting nor do they have any power to regulate.

The only areas that are covered specifically under "public officer" reference are commissions or committees that are either under state statute or local ordinance. (The board of alderman would fall under this, as they are created by state statute and approved by local ordinance.) The mayor commission on children and the Republic fine arts council do not fall under the definition. This is a fact and a "merit" point to the discussion. There are numerous state court decisions upholding these clarifications.

This is not a defensive stance, as you put it, but facts that have been researched. The "merits of the ethics charge" seem to be lost in the facts. The "nepotism" charge seems to be baseless, based on these findings. That is neither negative nor positive, but factual.

I really don't care who you are, republicfamily, all I care about is the facts being correct. Whether its Bilyeu, Collins, or Viebrock that wins, it must be mentioned that this blog has shown the ugly side of politics, especially in the 134th.

By the way, it must be mentioned that the Republic Monitor did not publish any of the "nepotism" charge in their paper this week. A quick call to them was made to find out why they didn't run the story. The answer was that is obviously politically motivated and not news worthy. These are not my words, but the words of the news paper.

Whether is was politically motivated or not, the fact remains that the timing is poor, the facts are not straight and the "citizens" that brought this are hiding behind an lawyer.

It is funny though, that they can bring these charges, throw them out there for the media to pick up on, and when they are found to be baseless, they will back off and say, "sorry, we were wrong" and drop the charge. The "damage" will have already been done and they get away with it.

I am not saying that you, republicfamily, had anything to do with the lawsuit, but you are right when you discussed the answer to community issues. But, it does not hurt to have a commission or two assisting in whatever way they can to help the American family and its moral values. Whatever they accomplish might be more than we had before.

Your comments about elected officials being defensive is interesting. It seems we, as Americans, believe we can say anything we want and if the person trys to defend themself, they are guilty as charged. You, as well as I, would get defensive if someone did not agree with our position and never stated why. This blog has that written everywhere, but my comments are not accusations and yes, criticism of elected officials is still allowed, to answer your question.

oldnewsreporter said...

A question that keeps coming up in my mind is why republicfamily keeps
mentioning that Hunsinger is Collins' biggest supporter financially. If you know the rules, Hunsinger gave $325.00 to the campaign, his wife, $325.00,and so did a lot of people on Collins' campaign. How can Hunsinger give more than anyone else? It is not possible, so stop with your innuendos!

spirit of liberty said...

I want to first say how great I think blogs are. It is just one more opportunity we as Americans have to redress government. However free speach is not about personal attacks against people who post their comments on issues. It is one thing to disagree with someone's opinion. To attack them personnaly for that opinion is another.
This whole issue is not about those who log in to this blog and post comments. Instead it is about the issue at hand.
The issue at hand has to do with whether or not Mayor Collins has violated the lasw of the state of Missouri and the public trust. I believe the State Statute is very clear o this issue. You cannot appoint a direct family member to any board or commission. It is a self removing statute. This means that the minute you violate it you are removed from office. Now of course in a fourth class city thereis not a provision for citizens to cause that removal. In this case the Attorney General or ethics commission would have to take the necessary action to remove Mayor Collins. They may or may not act. Only time will tell.
The sad fact is that no matter what happens the people get the short end of the stick. If he is not removed and he did violate the state staute, he will be able to commit the next infraction with less conscious. The people also lose because they have someone as thier Mayor who has a disregard for the law.
If he is removed the people of Republic have to suffer the same disgrace that other communities have in the past.

AshGrovePirateGuy said...

I haven't seen too much new on this and no more media coverage. This is starting to smell like something that is politically motivated. Of course, the question is motivation for who?

RepublicFamily said...

oldnewsreporter ... Perhaps I should go back and recheck the quarterly donation summaries submitted to the Missouri Ethics Commission by the Collins campaign. They are easy to find on the state website. But, if memory serves me correctly from the two that have been submitted, no one else has given as much as Hunsinger. Others can, of course, but I don't believe anyone has yet.

Yep, I just double checked the statements. The latest one is dated 7-12-06. Hunsinger has given $325 plus $300 for a total of $625. But you are correct, that does not make them the largest family donor. Darren and Kathy Haralson of Republic both gave $325 each (total of $650) and Shannon and Susan Haralson also each gave $$325 each for (total of $650).

And by defensive I specifically met the statement of "stop whining" and "get involved." Those are the things you hear elected officials say alot along with the defensive mechanism of: "If you don't like it then run for council." That defensive statement forgets that this is a representative government and it also assumes I am not involved already ... which I am.

Retiredreporter said...

Don't assume that just because the News-Leader and the Republic Monitor have not printed anything that the accusation is not true.

Granted, the situation and timing does seem odd. But, for those media outlets, there can be other things at play. The News-Leader, for example, is rarely ever critical of the city of Republic. And for the Monitor running something would risk ad revenues.

Plus, this is awful close to the primary election and it is doubtful the issue will be concluded before the election. Newspapers tend to shy away from issues that can't be resolved prior to the election unless they have an agenda against the candidate. Based on the reporting I've seen I sure don't think there is any type of media agenda against Collins. He, in fact, has been pretty media friendly and uses media outlets to his benefit pretty regularly.

RepublicFamily said...

I should give a cite for the financial information. It can be found at: http://www.moethics.mo.gov/Ethics/CampFinance/CampaignFinance.aspx. Just search for the 134th district. It looks like mid-July is that reported statement.

It is interesting to note that Viebrock has already spent $13,000 - plus for this election! I don't see where he has individual donations as large as Collins though. Viebrock's donations seem to be organizations, companies and PACs mostly.

Bilyeu's donations are coming from individuals. Many of them are attorneys so I would assume those are former debate students.

callitdemocracy said...

One needs only to do a bit of research to find out how politically motivated these charges really are. The real question becomes from which side are they coming -- maybe from one, maybe from both. A little checking led me to the fact that Mr. Crites was once a partner of none other than Price Kellar. Mr. Kellar has not been a fan of Collins for some time now -- all stemming from some land deal the BOA turned down. At least that't the story I got. Anyway, Mr. Kellar was also listed as the campaign manager for Chad Cole -- someone else who has been outspoken against the mayor. Chad Cole and OK Armstrong represent the same ward in Republic. Mr. Kellar and Mr. Armstrong and, maybe Mr. Cole are Viebrock supporters. It may be of some interest that Mr. Armstrong was a Collins supporter until he and Collins had a disagreement over a BOA issue. Let's keep the fun going, shall we....Mr. Kellar represented William Zobel in a lawsuit filed against Jack Merritt and another official for seizing his horses. This is the same Zobel case that Viebrock was so outspoken about. Although Viebrock didn't choose sides on right or wrong (one of his strong points -- being forever neutral), he did write a lengthy article about how the laws needed to be changed to protect the property owners. No, he didn't defend Zobel, but, if the bill he introduced on the subject were to have gone on and not died in committee, then Mr. Zobel would have been able to keep his dead and dying horses a bit longer before the authorities would have been able to do anything about it. Also, I did some checking into archived issues of the Monitor. Mr. Viebrock did indeed run an ad in the last issue of the Monitor before the 2002 election which made it appear that both Collins and Mark were crooked politicians. According to a source I spoke with, all three had previously agreed not to go that route. Someone obviously couldn't help himself.

On the other side, I found a few instances where both Mr. Crites and Doug Harpool are mentioned in the same information. Although I'm not positive and hopefully someone could clear this up, it appears Mr. Crites may have represented Harpool at one time.

As for the news not reporting this issue, that is curious. But, maybe they did some fact checking before publishing information that wasnt' right. I checked out the state statutes on ad-hoc committees (those formed for a specific purpose with no powers to vote and not formed by state law or local ordinance). There is nothing in the state statute that says Mr. Collins can't appoint his mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, wife, cousin or anyone else in his family to these types of committees. If one were to read the statute as written here, it would appear that Mr. Collins did something wrong. But, that statute goes further. An ad-hoc committee is, by far, not public office. It does not exist to serve the people, persay, but to serve the need for which it was commissioned in the first place. A call to a coporate lawyer friend of mine in DC told me all I needed to know about this issue...Ad hoc committees can be formed within a family -- they exist for only a specific purpose that has nothing to do with real decision making. Actually, this lawyer questioned the validity of the supposed investigation based on how it was handled. She seemed to think, based on her limited knowledge of the situation, that it reaks of political motivation. In her opinion, most lawyers would have gone to the city's attorney and met to discuss this matter before going to an open mic at a public meeting two weeks before an election in which the person in question was a candidate.

Now as for the Monitor's response on why they didn't print the story....The Monitor has never been on the side of the Mayor. They have printed negative stories about him in the past -- the recent past, as a matter of fact. Maybe the editor did some checking and found that the accusations were baseless. Maybe that's why it hasn't been further reported by any of the news networks or the NewsLeader. Has the NewsLeader been kind to Collins? Yes, they have. As someone seemed to imply earlier, that would mean that they are biased? I would hate to think so. I think we will see and hear more about this in the coming weeks.

As for someone's mention of campaign contributions...based on what I read, most of Collins' contributions come from family and friends. Bilyeu's too. Viebrock has gotten most of his campaign money from lobbyists and PACs. I seem to recall Viebrock running his initial campaign of 2002 on the notion that he wasn't a politician. I would imagine that he learned really quickly how to be one. One needs only to look at how he voted on the bill that would end campaign finance caps. The same bill would also not allow a challenger to collect contributions during the five-month session of the house. That would give an incumbent, essetially, the upper hand, because the incumbent is given money by his party to run as a rule of thumb. Now, how do you think Mr. Viebrock voted on that? Of course, he voted to end the caps!

I do find it unfortunate that these accusations found their way to the surface so close to this election. It would appear that someone's fear has gotten the better of him and this person has sunk so low as to drag a candidates family into this. I wouldn't blame Collins if he ever finds out who did this to sue them for defamation. It seems the 134th is in a pickle.

RepublicFamily said...

Thank you "callitdemocracy." That was a great post. Full of good and informed information. Well said. No doubt, there are several connections there that have to make a person raise their eyebrows. Political motivation seems to be a factor here. Thanks for the explanation on "ad hoc" also.

I was not suggesting there was anything wrong with family members donating to campaigns by the way. I mentioned it earlier in connection with a supporative letter to the editor that was written as an FYI. Important background to know when reading a letter.

Like you, I was concerned to see all of the corporate and PAC money going to Viebrock. Yep, looks like he has learned how to be a politician.

Takes two wings to fly straight said...

Richard Crites has never served as Doug Harpool's attorney. Doug Harpool has represented clients with cases against clients of Richard Crites. I think there also might have been a case where they jointly represented a Republican Sheriff from a rural county in a law suit. Doug Harpool had nothing to do with the Collins complaint.