Republic Mayor Jim Collins today called nepotism charges lodged against him by a Springfield attorney "a political ploy," orchestrated to distract voters' attention days before they cast their ballots in the hottest primary race in the Ozarks.
Collins, who is challenging Rep. Jim Viebrock for his 134th legislative seat, held a press conference in Republic today to clear his name of what he calls baseless allegations.
Earlier this week, Springfield attorney Richard Crites called on Collins to resign because the mayor appointed his wife to a children's committee. Crites said the appointment violated nepotism laws in Missouri's constitution and that Collins should step down.
Collins called the charge ridiculous. He said an ad-hoc committee would not fall under the nepotism clause because it has no "legal or statutory authority," and "has no power to make laws or adjust them."
"Any mayor can appoint their grandchild to one of these committees if they want," Collins said. "These citizens on these committees can brainstorm ideas and then suggest them to those who do have law-making ability."
"This is obviously political, including the timing," Collins said, adding that noone ever raised the issue for a year. "I would never violate any state or local laws. My excellent reputation has been attacked."
Collins said the people of Republic would suffer from this ethics filing, because he may have to use taxpayer money to defend himself from the charge. Collins called on Crites to reveal "who is behind this," so they could pay for the problem that they have caused.
When I asked Collins if he had any evidence Rep. Viebrock was involved, he replied, "I don't have any evidence, but I of course have my suspicions."
Collins said he didn't know why there was so much venom from his supporters and opponents about the upcoming primary vote. "I think a person's public record is fair game. I've put my record out there and referenced (Rep. Viebrock's). I'm not sure who's saying a lot of this on that blog but I think a lot of them are getting twisted up."
Collins reinterated his call for a debate with Viebrock. "I think a debate draws attention to the issues, not to conflict. And if you are up to date on the issues, why not defend your position? If you can't, why do you have the position?"
Collins said he hasn't done any polling on his chances.
So how close does Collins think this race is? "I think it's too close to tell. I really think it's going to be right down to the wire."