City Council hopes to put brakes on sheriff’s investigation

rpulley@lsjournal.comDecember 21, 2016 

The City Council backtracked on a decision asking the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department to investigate whether there was criminal activity in city purchasing.

Councilwoman Diane Forte has acknowledged she violated state law by selling awards to the parks department in two instances, with the totals over the $500 amount that state statute requires bids. She said she did not know of the statute at that time.

Chris Moreno had called for the investigation at a Dec. 8 meeting, getting enough support in a vote to direct the city manager to make the request.

On Thursday the council told City Manager Steve Arbo not to ask for the investigation.

However, Arbo already had sent a letter to the department.

City Attorney Brian Head said that at this point the sheriff’s department would be making its decision and the city has no power to halt an investigation.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp did not respond to a phone call asking whether it would be looking into the matter.

The City Council on Thursday also voted 7-0 to put the recall of Councilman Chris Moreno on the April ballot.

Moreno was absent from the meeting.

Council members Rob Binney and Dave Mosby noted the election is mandated by the city charter and that the vote does not mean the council either endorses or opposes the recall effort.

Lee’s Summit Citizens for Responsible Government had gathered 621 valid signatures from District 4, which were verified by county election officials.

Moreno contends the recall effort is in reaction to his vigorous pursuit of what he alleges is a pattern of illegal behavior by city staff, Forte and a former councilman.

On Thursday, Councilman Craig Faith asked the council to reconsider. He said there needed to be an administrative investigation before asking for a criminal inquiry. He noted that a Missouri Ethics Commission investigation was pending and an audit report received by the city needs review.

“Before we do that let’s see if there’s a need,” Faith said. “Let’s look at the prevailing evidence to see if there’s a need for an investigation in the first place, or see if we can handle it internally and adjust some polices and some practices, therefore saving Lee’s Summit from undue embarrassment.”

Councilwoman Trish Carlyle moved to retract authorization for Arbo to send a letter, and Faith, Binney, Diane Forte, Diane Seif and Carlyle voted yes. Mosby and Edson voted no. Seif flipped her earlier vote and Moreno was absent.

Ironically, late in the meeting during council roundtable, Forte moved to set a city policy forbidding such motions during the roundtable period, but that was rejected by the council.

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