October 16, 2013 - Approved minutes of the Sept. 12 Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Board of Trustees meeting that omit mention of a woman being removed by security comply with state law, according to a district official.
Without comment, trustees voted 5-0 last week to approve the minutes of the Sept. 12 meeting and a special Oct. 1 meeting.
Voting to approve the minutes were Chairman James Buford and members Bob Berry, Valerie Patton, Annette Mandel and James Faul. Board Vice Chair Michael Yates was absent from the Oct. 10 meeting.
The approved minutes of the board's Sept. 12 meeting state, "Mrs. Joan Jacobson addressed the board, distributed and read her statement to the Board of Trustees of her complaint about the storm sewer under her property and her neighbor's property."
However, the Call reported Sept. 19 that Jacobson was attempting to finish reading her letter to the board when Buford had security remove her from the room.
When Jacobson refused to stop reading her letter after a second request by Buford, he called for security, after she had been speaking for nine minutes.
MSD Manager of Public Information Lance LeComb told the Call the approved minutes comply with state law.
But longtime MSD critic Tom Sullivan, of University City, told the board during a period for public comment last week that he didn't believe the approved minutes were accurate. He also contended the approved minutes do not comply with the MSD Charter.
"... I don't think the minutes from the last regular board meeting (Sept. 12) were accurate," he said. "When you have a citizen who has been removed forcibly with two guards with guns, I think that that's something that needs to be accurately portrayed.
"Not only that, it's a charter requirement. The charter requires you to keep a journal of what happens at the meeting and if you're going to allow something like that to happen and not take note of it, you're not complying with the charter.
"Certainly, I think it's one of the most disgraceful things I've ever seen. You know, there's 1.4 million people within the district boundaries and most of the time there's only a few of them that show up, and it only takes 15 or 20 minutes when they all speak. I don't know what the big problem was ...," Sullivan added.
Asked about Sullivan's comments, LeComb said, "We're in compliance with state law. I'll take a look at the charter, but we're in compliance with state law. The bottom line is compliance with state law, and we develop our minutes being in compliance with the charter as well.
"If he interprets it a certain way, he certainly has a right to his opinion, but we feel we're in compliance with all state laws and applicable rules."
Asked why the minutes did not reflect Jacobson's removal from the board meeting, LeComb said, "The minutes are an accurate reflection of what occurred at the board meeting. If others disagree with that, they certainly have that right to disagree."
At the meeting, MSD Executive Director Brian Hoelscher told the board that staff had briefed the Program Management Committee about Jacobson's problem, which was discovered when a neighbor razed an existing house to build a new one.
During the construction of the neighbor's new house, it was discovered both homes "were built directly on top of (a) storm sewer. The sewer's estimated to be approximately 100 years old and was inherited from the old Webster Groves Sewer District. The sewer was found to be in fair condition ...," Hoelscher said, adding MSD was able to reimburse Jacobson's neighbor for the relocation of the sewer on that property.
"Since that time, MSD has been working with the Jacobsons to provide a similar remedy to the situation on their property. MSD staff has investigated numerous alternatives to relocate the sewer, both on the Jacobsons' property and on adjacent properties. The construction corridor is very tight and would require the removal of numerous mature trees within the properties," he said.
"Over an eight-month period, staff has had over 20 communications with the Jacobsons in an effort to reach an agreement and obtain easements to relocate the sewer or to rehabilitate the sewer and allow it to remain in place. The final options were presented to the Jacobsons in May of 2013, but were deemed unacceptable. MSD wishes to resolve this issue at no cost to the Jacobsons, but does need the cooperation of the property owner to make this happen," the executive director said.
In an Oct. 4 letter, staff responded to the issues Jacobson raised Sept. 12, Hoelscher said, adding that letter and all future correspondence will go through the Jacobsons' legal representative.