By Tribune Staff
Mayor Randy Rhoads began the July 7, Regular Session City Council meeting by addressing the recent public image depicted of the council, stating that they had been depicted as clowns and that none of them wanted that image.
“Two years ago, we went through a similar transition with three new council members, and yes, there were rough pot holes, however, we came to the realization, at some point in time, that our term in office is a marathon and not a sprint, and it takes too much energy to fight at every meeting,” Rhoads said. “That council figured out a way to work together. Personally, I am hopeful that this city council can work through this time and will start to work together, because the people of Lee’s Summit and the region are watching and asking what is going on.”
After the meeting was called into session, Councilmember Moreno asked City Attorney Brian Head for clarification over the results of the vote made to remove Forte from the Park’s liaison position at the June 23 meeting.
While the intention of the council was clear, a technicality in the making of the motion meant that the list approved by the council included Forte as Park’s liaison.
Coucilmember Moreno went to make a motion to amend the list again, but was interrupted by Mayor Rhoads so that Councilmember Forte could share her prepared statement:
“On June 16, I was made aware of a possible statue violation by our city, a call was made to the Missouri Ethics Commission to discuss the possible statute violation. They asked if this expenditure was normally approved by the entire City Council. It is not. These items in question were listed on my ethics report for the year.
“On Monday, June 20, I sent an email (editor’s note: email is copied at the end of the article) to the entire council apologizing for my ignorance and any embarrassment that it had caused. I also stated that Diane Forte Enterprises would no longer do any business with the Parks department, and tonight, based on what we need to go forward, and the parks, what they need to do, the focus should not be on whether Diane Forte is liaison, the focus should be on what a good city we have, what a good park system we have.
“At this time, I would ask the Mayor Pro Tem to replace me on that park’s liaison because it is not in the best interest of the entire city, not because, and I mean this sincerely, that I made a mistake. I understand that mistake and as Diane Forte Enterprises, I did not understand that things had not been bid. This is what it is. I can only tell you the truth. I will not do business with the parks going forward and at this time it is apparent that going forward that the park’s liaison should be changed, and I ask the Mayor Pro Tem to do that.”
Councilmember Diane Forte officially resigned from her position as City Council liaison to the Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation. Mayor Pro Tem Binney will appoint her replacement at the next council meeting.
Councilmember Faith stated that he appreciated Forte’s comments and “willingness to admit a mistake.”
“I think that as we look at documents that have been requested under the sunshine request, we all want to mend any things that may have happened in the past,” Faith said. “And go forward with a clean slate in city that is strong with council that is strong.”
Councilmember Moreno echoed Faith’s appreciation and wanted to address what he believe is the real issue here.
“The bottom line is this, is that this is not about Councilwoman Forte. This is about the procurement process in our city, and the bottom line is, no bid deals in this community are bad for tax payers. Period,” Moreno said. “We have a procurement process that needs to take place, that needs to be responsible so that our tax dollars are represented in the most responsible way.”
The following emails were obtained by sunshine law request. They had been marked as attorney-client privileged and were mentioned by Councilmember Moreno at the June 23 meeting.
Email sent to the City Council from Diane Forte on June 20, at 2:04 p.m.:
“There will be no further business done between Diane Forte Enterprises, LLC And The Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation.
Just for the record, this was an account I have done for more than 15 years and I Was totally unaware of the issue but I understand this is not an excuse.
There were 5 transactions in 2015 and 4 in 2016.
I apologize to each of you for any embarrassment I might have caused the council.
Email sent to the City Council from Diane Forte on June 20, at 4:10 p.m.:
“I need to correct the previous email, some of the business that I do is with the Foundation not the Parks. The Foundation purchases bronze castings for Parks Benches donated to the parks by people in memory of loved ones. That accounted for 4 of the 5 sales in 2015 and 3 of the 4 in 2016.
I felt it was important to clarify this information.