By Stephanie Edwards
The March 16 session of City Council began with a flurry of comments during the public comments section of the regular city council meeting and city councilmembers. A representative of a group attempting to recall Councilmember Moreno stated that he and others had been called names on the councilmember’s Facebook page.
Kent Ruehter of the Lee’s Summit Citizens for Responsible Government said that in the past week members of the group had reached out to the District 4 councilmember. He alleged that the councilmember agreed to reply in private conversation. Ruehter said that the councilman told one woman that he would reply if she would agree to post a sign in her yard.
“I come to you today as a resident of District 4 and a member of Lee’s Summit Citizens for Responsible Government,” Ruehter said. The group petitioned to have a measure placed on the ballot to recall Moreno in the upcoming April 4 election. Ruehter said that more of Moreno’s constituents are seeking to educate themselves on the recall and other issues. Those citizens attempted to reach out to Moreno for his side of the story through his District 4 Councilmember Facebook page. Moreno, he said, invited those who asked for his side of the story to message him privately. Ruehter then accused the councilmember of “effectively cutting them off” from communicating with their council representative and in some cases, outright banning them.
“He cannot be allowed to treat people like this,” he said. “Mr. Moreno has a sworn duty to represent everyone in his district, regardless of whether he agrees with them.” Ruehter further accused Moreno of using his position to “get a man fired for daring to speak out” and publishing personal contact information for a longtime public volunteer, agreeing only to take it down if she resigned, which he said the volunteer ultimately did.
“He has contacted the employers, boards of directors, and nonprofit organizations to attempt to have his critics fired or removed from their volunteer positions,” Ruehter further alleged and added that the councilmember “cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for a kickback.”
Reuhter alleged that Moreno sent a personal friend with “several convictions for violent crimes” to harass him on social media. His group, he said, has played by the rules in an attempt to recall him from his position.
“His actions paint an extremely disturbing pattern of behavior that makes him unfit to represent our great city,” Ruehter said.
Councilmember Moreno responded during the council comments portion of the meeting. “There have been a number of statements that have taken place over the last eight months, week after week before this body,” Moreno said. “I want to state on the record that the overwhelming majority of those statements have been campaign related. And it’s ironic that we had this conversation here tonight, because we are using City resources, City staff in the backroom right now televising, City staff in the rooms here, to advertise for a political opinion.” Without, he said, the ability for “any individual on this dais being able to respond.”
Moreno said that city council was a place for governing, not campaign politics. He then said that the statements made by Mr. Ruehter were “Categorically, one hundred percent false.”
“It is just shameful that we have to have this conversation here,” Moreno continued. “We are three weeks away from an election. The voters are going to get to decide.” He then said that the group could be knocking on doors and passing out campaign materials. “That’s okay; that’s their right,” he said. “This is city government and this is the problem that I have addressed time and time again on this dais. Our council committee rules and procedures of this body state that only public comments should relate to council related matters.”
Moreno then went on to cite section 14.3 of the city charter that, he said, states that staff and city council members have a right under the First Amendment to support or oppose any political position that they deem fit. “What they don’t have a right to do is to do that on City hours, on City time,” he said.
Moreno then addressed conflict of interest issues during city charter review meetings before issuing a final statement in closing. “This is City hours; this is City resources,” he said. “We should not be advocating for campaign politics and ballot initiatives here using City resources because a recall effort is no different than a charter commission. It is a ballot initiative.”
His comments were followed by outbursts. Mayor Randy Rhoads called down the comments. “I want to get us back to the business of governing,” he said and continued with the meeting.