The proceedings against two Neosho city councilmen alleged to have committed several ethics violations is apparently over.
But whether this is the final chapter in the case against Steve Hart and David Ruth has yet to be determined.
Nora Houdyshell, city clerk, reported that Derek Snyder withdrew his complaint of unethical conduct by council members, in violation of the city charter and the city code of ordinances with the clerk’s office, effective immediately, at 2:20 a.m. Friday
The request to withdraw the complaint reads as follows:
“The complainant, Derek A. Snyder, respectfully requests of the city council and ethics board to withdraw the complaint filed on April 8, due to questions of proper jurisdiction.
“The complainant’s stated purpose, as read into the record, ‘was and remains to highlight for this board, and more importantly the citizens of Neosho, what I believe to be a pattern of total disregard for proper ethics, procedure, and loyalty to this city.’ The complainant believes this purpose of highlighting the conduct of Mr. Hart and Mr. Ruth has been fulfilled.
“The Neosho City Code prescribes a method for elected officials to be held accountable for violations of ‘ethics’ contained in the City Code of Ordinances. The complainant filed a valid and detailed complaint against Councilman Hart and Councilman Ruth for obvious and flagrant violations of both the ‘code of ethics’ and the city charter ‘prohibitions’ for council members. Nevertheless, the ethics board has determined that it lacks jurisdiction to make any specific recommendations regarding the complaint, and the city council may lack jurisdiction to further the complaint by adjudication locally or at the state level. Therefore, the complainant requests to withdraw the complaint to save the taxpayers of Neosho any further expense from any litigation that might be necessary.
“While the complainant fervently believes the claims against Mr. Hart and Mr. Ruth have been substantiated with sufficient evidence, the arguably flawed opinion of Mr. McCaffree has resulted in a confusing environment of uncertainty. This disputed and likely inaccurate legal analysis will stifle any beneficial process to ensure that the ethics board could complete its investigation and that the council could render a determination. Mr. McCaffree’s research of case law to support his legal opinion, which he offered to the ethics board, was not on point — being clearly distinguishable from the present case and lacking any clear statutory or case law precedent to deny a council the right to delegate matters of ‘administrative proceedings’ that fall outside the legal realm of criminal culpability or civil liability.
“The complainant never asserted that Mr. Hart or Mr. Ruth had committed actions or conduct that amounted to a crime or tort against the citizens of Neosho. The complainant continues to believe that the harm committed by the complainees were a matter of ‘ethics,’ not of a criminal or civil claim as Mr. McCaffree’s single case points to. However, there are some questions as to how charter violations should be applied to the ethics board. Because the complainant’s current residence would likely remove any standing to further this complaint in state or municipal court, and any action taken by the city on behalf of the complainant would lead to increased costs to the taxpayer, the complainant does hereby request that the complaint against Mr. Hart and Mr. Ruth be withdrawn for lack of a clear jurisdiction and a procedural forum to present and properly deal with the complaint. “
Asked to respond to the withdrawal of the complaint, Ruth said on one hand he is a little displeased that is was withdrawn, “Because I don’t have the opportunity to clear my name in a real court.”
Ruth said he feels the city still has a fatally flawed ordinance and charter amendment. “And I don’t know how the mayor and the city attorney are trying to resolve that,” he said.
But, Ruth said, “I’m glad that it was dropped because I think that it’s time for this city council to get back to addressing the real needs and opportunities of the city of Neosho in a constructive and cooperative manner and quit wasting time and the city taxpayer’s money on meanness and politically-motivated lawsuits and legal actions. Hopefully we can get back to taking care of the city of Neosho and what we were elected to do.”
Hart was unavailable for comment.
Richard Davidson, mayor, responded that he feels the withdrawal of the complaint by Snyder means that the ethics investigation is over, as, “There is no complaint to refer to the county.”
However, Steven Hays, city attorney, stated, “It very well could be.”
Hays said the city council is now aware of the ethics charges, and that those charges have been brought to the public, and the council could continue on their own.
“Until council has the opportunity to decide to move forward or to accept the withdrawal, and accept that that is in the best interest of the city,” Hays continued, “they could send it to the prosecutor.”
Once the evidence is in the public realm, Hays said the power to stop the complaint is outside the power of the complainant. Hays said he expects that the case is over, and expects a disposition of the case at the next city council meeting, scheduled for May 20.