Tuesday’s Neosho City Council meeting began with controversy and ended with controversy.
Former councilwoman Heather Bowers opened the meeting in visitors business by announcing she would be bringing an ethics complaint against Mayor Richard Davidson and city attorney Steven Hays for their actions in removing her from the council in 2011.
“When I was removed there was no ordinance to remove me, no council action,” claimed Bowers. “Steve Hays, our city attorney, sent the email at the direction of Mayor Davidson alone and no one else.”
While providing a poster board presentation to those in attendance, Bowers asserted that emails she received through a public information request document no communication with the council about her removal, on the morning after she missed her third consecutive council meeting.
She also claimed there is no documentation for the services of attorney Duane Cooper, hired by the Davidson and Hays for the city that week.
“I am told that as of last Friday, that they have no financial records, that he did it pro bono, but they have no contact with him, it’s like he showed up out of thin air,” she said. “I would like the council to investigate that.”
Bowers added that she had given Davidson 15 minutes notice prior to missing some of the meeting, though that information was not provided to the council. She said his interference violates the Charter, and asked council to look at that and then act.
“Because back then, Hays and Davidson were the judge of the qualifications and the grounds for my forfeiture of office, not the actual council,” she said.
Bowers also charged that the mayor gave email directives to other council members regarding the proposed TIF and the TDD, amounting to public meetings behind everyone’s back.
By being removed from office at 5 p.m. on that April 6, Bowers said she was precluded from attended the state audit meeting at 6 p.m. for an audit that she had initiated.
As Bowers began to address Facebook postings, she was apprised that she had doubled her allotted five minutes, to which she responded, “I’ll be back to discuss this.”
Following the meeting, Davidson responded that he was unable to see the presentation to the gallery, and is not in full understanding of the allegations. He argued with Bowers’ assessment that he removed her from office, or that her removal was improper.
“If you miss three meetings in a row, the charter says, quote, ‘Shall be removed.’ It doesn’t say, ‘Go to the council,’ it doesn’t say, ‘Get a vote of the council.’”
Regarding the hiring of the attorney Cooper, who presided over Bower’s hearing, Davidson advised, “If you go back and look at the minutes from April 2011 of that meeting, the council voted to hire Mr. Cooper to preside. The council also then voted on whether or not to excuse her absences, and they voted not to excuse her absences.
“So Mr. Cooper came on with the consent of council, the council did address her absence and voted not to excuse it, and the charter language at that point said, ‘Shall be removed.’ As far as directing Mr. Hays to send a letter, that doesn’t come from me. Mr. Hays acted based on the charter and that’s what he did, and three years later those questions come up, that’s what happened.”
Davidson stated that the city remains committed to doing things the right way.
“Following the law to the ‘T’, treating every citizen the same way regardless of your last name, your occupation or your position, and we will continue to move the city forward with what we have to do to make Neosho a better place to live, work and raise a family,” he said.
At the close of the meeting, city clerk Nora Houdyshell’s request for council to approve paying her legal fees to defend against a lawsuit filed against her for doing her job brought some heated discussion. Houdyshell’s request for approval to revise open records policy and to provide direction for current Sunshine Law requests also developed into extended debate. Those issues, and the others to come before council Tuesday, will be forthcoming in the Neosho Daily News.