By Stephanie Edwards
“I would like to point out that our charter has been violated.” Gladys Bratton addressed members of the City Council during the public comments portion of the March 16 regular meeting. Bratton refereed to Article 14, Section 14.3 of the charter which, she said, states that “no City officer, committee, authority, board, or commission member or employee shall use official authority or official influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the results of an election to a Lee’s Summit city office or ballot proposition.”
Bratton displayed a screen capture from Councilmember Chris Moreno’s Facebook page. She described the photo with Councilmember Dave Mosby wearing a shirt displaying “charter vote no” wording and the caption from the Facebook page, “Councilman Dave Mosby using his first amendment rights against insiders. Vote No on Charter changes.”
“This is an official website; they are identifying themselves as officials,” she said.
Bratton stated that she is a 40-year resident of Lee’s Summit and says that she is “embarrassed, ashamed, and appalled” at the directions the city government has taken, “especially Mr. Mosby who served on the first charter commission.”
“No, the second,” Councilmember Mosby spoke up and corrected her.
Bratton continued that she was proud to have served on the charter commission as a volunteer. Our meetings were videotaped. “I take great offense being called a fraud,” Bratton said. Each council member has a binder with copies of the pro and con documents. “Maybe there are amendments you personally disagree with. Have a backbone and state what you disagree with.”
Councilmember Mosby responded to Bratton’s comments during the council comments portion. “Pretty convenient,” he said. “You know, Gladys. I am glad that you brought that up. I’m glad that you came and spoke. You need to be a little careful of the accusations because some of them are not accurate.” Mosby explained the comment that it was convenient because he had received an email from Brian Head, city attorney, about the issue. Mosby said he emailed the attorney to ask if any court cases showed that the “city charter supersedes my first amendment rights” and since he had not received a response, considering his right to say what he wants about a ballot issue.
“My response is, it’s my First Amendment right as a citizen of Lee’s Summit to say what I want about any ballot issue,” he said. “I don’t like the ballot issues. I don’t have to. I’m a private citizen. People call me ‘councilmember,’ but when I am on Facebook, that’s my personal Facebook. It says nothing about council.”
Mosby then stated that in November, Councilmember Rob Binney voiced his support for the parks tax. “Where were you then,” Mosby asked. He also said that currently, a charter commission member posted on their Facebook a link to a PAC in support of the charter and more encouragement to vote for it in the upcoming election.
“Also, I am of the opinion that the city manager and the city attorney broke the entire charter process by using their positions to manipulate charter commissioners,” Mosby said. “You asked for an opinion. The mayor currently only has veto power, which works very well.” A few vetoes have been overthrown he said, but not very many. “Balance of power between the mayor, council, and city manager is compromised if the mayor is forced to vote. That is the reason why I don’t agree with it.”
Mosby said further that the full council elects a mayor pro-tem, who then selects committees. “It has been a little messy at times, but it works. The people have a voice then,” he said. The charter, he said, seeks to remove that power from the council and give it to the mayor, removing the choice of the council, and the people, in the selection.
“I had chosen originally to leave this until roundtable,” Councilmember Trish Carlyle spoke next. But, she said, as her comments were more legislative than anyone else who had spoken, she “must insist that it happen now.”
Carlyle addressed the mayor and said that it had come to her attention that members of the council are in violation of their elected positions. “When I was elected to this position and I took my oath of office, I took it very seriously. It seems to me that some of us did not, and that some of us are intentionally making a mockery of this office,” she said. Carlyle stated that after numerous reminders from legal counsel to remain “unbiased on any ballot issues” some council members remain steadfast in publicly voicing their opinions.
“I would remind them that as an elected official, they are here voluntarily,” she said. Taking the oath of office, she said, limited their First Amendment rights. Carlyle went on to say that she has put together evidence supporting her assertions and will deliver it to the council. She then asked the council members to cease the activity.