Bland seeks RFP for prosecutor; approves lay off of policeman through early July citing budget

Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

Bland aldermen on Feb. 11 voted 3-0 to submit a request for proposal (RFP) for a prosecuting attorney following a closed session discussion on personnel.  

Discussions took place after Bland Court Clerk Rachel Anderson reported that the city’s Prosecuting Attorney Brett J. Hellmann, of Hermann, dismissed six municipal ordinance violations cases Jan. 28 without giving the court an explanation.

“I guess I am going to be the one to ask,” said Alderman Gary Lee. “Why in the heck did we have 67 — is it — dismissed?”

Anderson corrected Lee and said six were dismissed or nolled, but was unsure why. Mayor Ron Shafferkoetter explained that 67 was the number of cases total.

“If you get on down to the January court and take a look at your dismissed cases, how many cases did the prosecutor have in front of him?” Shafferkoetter asked Anderson. 

Anderson said six.

“He dismissed all six,” Shafferkoetter said.

Spradling asked why and Anderson said she couldn’t say.

City Treasurer Lyndsay Gray said he dismissed them all, that they were all ordinance violations, and that was the end of it. The board asked if they have a protocol for ordinance violations, and Anderson confirmed that they do.

Anderson said the previous board started to make plans to be compliant with ordinance violations that were put into effect the previous November. The ordinance included building code registrations and vacant building violations.

“We sent out three certified letters to all the citizens that were in violation and the ones that appeared in court tried to make no effort in redeeming the violations until they received citations,” Anderson said. “After the certified letters were sent out, the police department gave them two warnings before the violations were ever issued. So due process was definitely followed through correctly. I am not sure why the prosecutor felt the need to dismiss them.”

She said no reason was given to the court either. The six cases were for various violations that included building, zoning and nuisances.

“I just feel like it is totally wrong to give citations or warnings out and they are dismissed,” Spradling said. “That is why we have an ordinance book, that is why we have all of our ordinances.”

Anderson said she could understand the attorney’s reasoning if notices had not been given, but that was not the case.

“Not only were certified letters sent, but copies of the ordinances were sent along with the certified letters,” Anderson said.

“If you want my opinion, it just doesn’t make sense,” Spradling said. “Why is it so hard to follow these ordinances? Why is it so hard for the police, prosecutor, judges, to follow up on our ordinances?”

Spradling addressed her question to Alderman Tommy Thompson who said he doesn’t know because he has not asked them. Spradling asked if Thompson had ever been to court, and he said no, but he has a good idea of why it turned out the way it did. Spradling asked Lee if he knew anything.

“No,” Lee said. “I know it is at the prosecutor’s discretion whether he prosecutes or not. Normally they do give you a reason why — at least to the court.”

Anderson said the first defendant that came to the prosecutor went to the back room before the case was discussed.

“Then when he came out, he walked out the door,” Anderson said. “The judge was not too happy that the prosecutor did not give notice to the bench prior to (discuss) what was going on, and the individual leaving court when he was not excused by the judge.”

Spradling said if the city can’t make their ordinances work, then there is no need to have them and no need to pay all the money to have the ordinances codified into a book.

Shafferkoetter said there are avenues the city may take to correct the situation.

“I will be discussing that with you,” Shafferkoetter said.

“I think out of everything, out of city hall following the rules and trying to get things done and done correctly — it really ticks me off about our city ordinances,” Spradling said. “We might as well go out here and dump our trash into the street. That’s enough, I am finished with it.”

Shafferkoetter said he would be discussing with the board a possible solution to the problem later.

The board voted after coming back from closed session.

Minutes read, “In continuation of budgetary deficits, in closed session regarding personnel, mayor recommends sending out RFP for the prosecuting attorney. Discussion made. Motion to request for proposal on the prosecuting attorney made by Alderman Thompson and seconded by Alderman Lee. All in favor.”

Aldermen also voted 3-0 to make a request to the city judge to convene court once per quarter instead of every other month; and laid-off deputy Dwayne Goodridge effective immediately until July 8, 2019, for budget purposes.