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Crestwood mayor to announce his resignation, effective Saturday



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Jim Robertson
Crestwood Mayor Jim Robertson will resign his post, effective midnight Saturday, Jan. 31.

Robertson told the Call that he planned to announce his resignation at the end of the Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

Robertson, an attorney who was elected mayor in April 2002, said he was resigning to focus on family, medical and personal matters that for some time he has been unable to give the attention they deserve. Given how the responsibilities of his mayoral post essentially have become a second full-time job, he "reluctantly'' concluded he could not focus on those family, medical and personal matters and give his mayoral duties the attention they deserve.

Upon the mayor's resignation, the president of the Board of Aldermen — Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding — will have all the powers and perform all the duties of the mayor until a special municipal election is conducted to elect a mayor for the remainder of Robertson's term, which would have expired in April 2005, according to the City Charter.

As acting mayor, Breeding will continue to have a vote in board deliberations, but will not have the veto power of the mayor, according to the charter.

During an interview with the Call, Robertson acknowledged that the demands of his office coupled with personal matters he has been neglecting have been weighing heavily upon him, and asked if he planned to resign his mayoral post, he answered in the affirmative.

When Robertson was elected mayor in April 2002, it marked the first time in 24 years that the city's mayor did not reside in Ward 1. Robertson also is the first mayor from the area that became part of Crestwood in 1997 when voters approved the annexation of 290 acres east of the city between Grant Road and Rock Hill Road.

Robertson, who was involved with the Neighbors for Annexation, was elected to the Board of Aldermen in 1998 and re-elected in 2001.

In his campaign for mayor, Robertson said one of his goals was to establish an administration that would promote full communication between city officials and residents with the goal of "building a better way together.''

When he ran for mayor, Robertson said he didn't know "how truly desperate the situation actually was,'' as Crestwood was on the brink of financial disaster. But as he leaves office, Robertson said he believes the "disaster has been avoided.''

However, for most of his term, Robertson has been wrestling with the city's finances.

Don Greer, who has served as the city's police chief since 1990 and remains in that post, was named city administrator by aldermen in December 2002 after they accepted the retirement of longtime City Administrator Kent Leichliter.

Shortly after Greer became city administrator, he told the Ways and Means Committee that while the Board of Aldermen was led to believe the city's general fund was balanced at the end of fiscal 2002, that was not the case. That was the first sign that the city was facing a financial crisis.

Though the Board of Aldermen adopted a balanced fiscal 2004 operating budget in July, preparation of an end-of-the-year budget adjustment ordinance designed to close out the city's fiscal 2003 books led to a revised fiscal 2004 general fund budget that projects a shortfall of $112,010.

During the preparation of the budget adjustment ordinance, which has yet to be presented to the board, city officials discovered that fiscal 2003 general fund expenses were slightly more than anticipated, while revenues, particularly those from merchant licenses, were far less than projected.

After discovering what Greer termed fiscal "anomalies,'' city officials began an internal investigation into the accounting practices used by Leichliter and former Finance Officer Robert Wuebbels, and the Board of Aldermen hired Brown Smith Wallace to perform a forensic audit of the city's finances for fiscal 2001 and fiscal 2002. The forensic audit, released Nov. 1, alleged that Leichliter and Wuebbels violated the City Charter, numerous ordinances and their duties as fiduciary officers in their handling of the city's finances.

Less than three weeks later, the city filed a lawsuit against Leichliter and Wuebbels alleging they breached their fiduciary duties by manipulating financial records to misrepresent the city's true financial condition to Robertson and the Board of Aldermen.

The board later hired Brown Smith Wallace to serve as the city's independent auditing firm for the next five years.

Besides conducting an audit of fiscal 2003, Brown Smith Wallace was contracted to restate the city's financial statements for fiscal 2001 and fiscal 2002. The Board of Aldermen was scheduled Tuesday night to consider accepting the restated financial statements for fiscal 2001 and fiscal 2002.

Crestwood residents have helped ease the city's financial situation in two elections.

In August 2002, residents approved a 15-year extension of a half-cent capital-improvement sales tax. Residents last August approved a quarter-cent sales tax designed to offset some of the costs of providing fire protection.

The city is on the road to recovery and now has the opportunity to realize its full potential, Robertson said. The "fix-it'' part essentially is complete, he said, noting that the "improve-it'' phase is under way.

One of his goals as mayor has been to assemble an administrative staff that is responsive to residents and Robertson believes that goal has been attained. He had nothing but praise for the administrative staff and other employees, saying he believes they are the best the city has had for many years and are committed to the success of the city.

Robertson also recognized members of the Board of Aldermen for their efforts in helping make Crestwood a better place to live and work, noting that while aldermen have not always agreed with him, they always have acted in a professional manner toward him.

During the interview with the Call, Robertson said those close to him have been aware that he has been the target of some particularly vicious anonymous hate mail "replete with falsehoods.'' Those close to him, he continued, also have been asking for some time: "How much is enough?''

Robertson said he gave deep and thoughtful consideration to that question before reaching the conclusion that at this time he should focus on the family, medical and personal matters that for some time he has been unable to give the attention they deserve.

Serving the people of Crestwood was a "privilege,'' he said, noting he wishes both the city and its residents continued success and the best and brightest possible future.

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