Saturday, May 06, 2006

CASE IN POINT By Joe Koester, Councilman Ward 9

“Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.”


In a scoundrelly act by councilmen Muench, Reese, Hoepfner, Weller, and Kneemiller, the “Fraudulent Five” (in concert with the administration and blessing of City Attorney, Mike Valenti) seized the presidency and vice-presidency of the Council last Tuesday night. This act of cowardice came about after councilman Gieseke informed the City that he would be out of town on business and would not make the Council meeting.

Meanwhile, the council was working towards compromise in these very positions and was, per tradition, horse-trading on some committee positions as well. Instead of honoring their word, these men decided to follow Dr. Williams’ suit and disregard anything they had heretofore agreed upon.

This total disregard for “doing the right thing” should surprise no one. At least two of the same five Councilmen worked hard to try and unseat a fellow council member, not for anything she had done, but in order to get at Councilman Riddler. Furthermore, all five of these Councilmen marched forward with the recall despite knowing that there were allegations (and later charges) of fraud plaguing the recall effort.

I had expected more from at least one councilman, namely, Councilman Muench. Don’t dare confront Councilman Muench in any matter – he decries that “our side” has made his life hell. Was it the installation of the Boone’s Lick Road improvements or the additional fourteen or so gas light on Main Street that has upset him so? Or just what in his long list of things asked for and gotten has made him feel so mistreated? Truly, Mr. Muench would be hard-pressed to come up with anything that the council has not given him or compromised on to his benefit. Still, in Mr. Muench’s mind he has been somehow wronged by Riddler, Brown, Greer, Gieseke, and me. When Council sought to use subpoena power to bring witnesses to city hall in order to ask questions about potential wrongdoing, Mr. Muench decided that he would rather not even attempt to look into the matter, but voted with four others to maintain the status quo regardless of what benefit it may have had to the city to call witnesses. Mr. Weller commented Tuesday night that by now folks know that he wants to know everything he can on the issues but he too chose to deny subpoena power in order to bring in witnesses concerning the insurance case.

So, the result of Tuesday night’s denial of the full council to choose its president and vice-president will result in greater mistrust and enmity among fellow council members as well as still more distrust of the city attorney who has, up until now, consistently stated that six votes are needed to pass said action.

What I would have expected from our city attorney upon realizing that his opinion of a six-vote requirement would change to a simple majority of those present based upon a recently revealed ordinance, would have been a telephone call and an e-mail stating his new position. This little piece of information was withheld from some council members. Do you think it was done so purposefully? Can you see why council has a need for its own representation?

In the first year of the newly elected council, seven members cast votes together that caused change. In the second year, two council members would shift their position on council meaning a split council in a few contested matters.

The new five members of Kneemiller, Reese, Weller, Hoepfner and Muench weren’t happy with a split council and in an attempted power grab, they wanted to use their connections to money to finance a recall and shift power into their hands.

Big money and the efforts of Mayor York, Councilman Weller, and Councilman Kneemiller failed. Faced with compromise and a new call to work together, these five couldn’t handle it. In a pattern that seems to repeat itself over and over, they began to scheme on how they could grab power from Mr. Riddler.

This matter to me has little to do with Mr. Riddler and much to do with honesty and respect for fellow councilmen. Tuesday night, I was running a few minutes late to council and was therefore not allowed to vote in the matter of council leadership. More importantly, Councilman Gieseke had announced his planned absence of the May 2, meeting to city hall. Kneemiller jumped at his chance to do what he could not have accomplished otherwise – become the figurative leader of the city council.

One reason Mr. Kneemiller could not have gathered six votes became obvious that very first night.
In closed session we listened to the mayor question our duty and accuse us of breaking the charter by not putting Mr. Brown on the ballot for recall. You know the song and dance from Mr. Weller and Mr. Kneemiller too, “We have to protect the rights of the voters and move forward with recall.” This line is repeated ad nauseum, despite the recall effort being tainted with problems. My question remains the same: If someone were to sit down and fraudulently sign the names of registered voters until enough were put onto paper to recall an elected official, and then submit those petitions to the clerk who in turn simply verified with the county that the names on the petition are voters, would the signatures be certified and the election placed on the ballot?

Now, imagine that this had happened to Mr. Kneemiller or Mayor York. Do you think they would say, “Ok, let’s put this on the ballot and then we will deal with the matter in court?” Or do you think they would insist that the matter first be handled in court and decry the petitions to be void because they were not collected legitimately?

Now ask yourself if they (or you) would be okay knowing that only half of the signatures “collected” were fraudulent. What about just 25%? What about 10%?

After having the mayor question our adherence to the charter (as if she need to give lectures on this matter) Mr. Brown rightfully criticized the mayor and in a flash, Mr. Kneemiller was crying foul! You see, Mr. Kneemiller is not capable of unbiased judgement because he thinks himself part of the administration instead of the legislative branch of city government.
Way back when we asked for a vote of the people to decide the issue of stalemate in department head appointments, “the other side” accused us of a power grab.... a power grab by asking for a vote of the people. Tuesday night we saw a real power grab from councilman and gang who would have never won a fair election on his own merit.
“Fair election” doesn’t seem to be part of their vocabulary.