City returns to Dark Ages under mayor's leadership
October 12, 2005 - During a recent interview with the Call, Crestwood City Administrator Don Greer discussed his belief that the city today is much more open than it has been in the past.
"Crestwood's more public today. I believe philosophically and professionally that that's the way local government ... needs to be operated. What it does is it creates an opportunity for people to be much better informed, to have more say in what goes on and whether you agree or disagree with what they believe, people have more of a voice,'' said Mr. Greer, who has been serving as both city administrator and police chief since December 2002.
Ironically, the topic of the Aug. 26 interview was Mr. Greer's decision to serve only as the police chief once a new city administrator is hired.
It's certainly no secret that Mr. Greer and Mayor Roy Robinson don't exactly mesh. Don't forget that one of Mayor Robinson's campaign promises was to "separate the duties and powers of city administrator and police chief.''
But it's become evident that one of the reasons the two don't see eye to eye is because Mr. Greer's desire to do public business in public clashes with Mayor Robinson's craving for control and desire for secrecy. And given Mayor Robinson's recent di-rective prohibiting city employees from speaking with media representatives unless they receive his permission, Crestwood has taken a colossal step backward to the not-so-distant past when the city, indeed, did do business behind closed doors.
Such a directive is not only an affront to citizens who rely on the media for information about their city, but we believe it's an outright violation of employees' First Amend-ment right of freedom of speech.
But Mayor Robinson doesn't think so because "they (employees) don't have any First Amendment rights un-less we authorize it.''
Such a blatant disregard for a basic freedom accorded every one of us under the U.S. Constitution should be a cause for alarm for employees and citizens alike. But since assuming office in April, it's no secret that Mayor Robinson has taken a heavy-handed approach to elected office, stacking the city's standing boards, committees and commissions with his supporters and now stifling the media's access to city employees most knowledgeable about the day-to-day business of Crestwood.
Asked if the City Charter provided the authority for him to issue such a directive, he said, "I don't think the City Charter even addresses that. I am the chief executive of the city so that takes care of that.''
One of the reasons Mayor Robinson gave this newspaper for issuing his directive was because "... I just don't want any of the wrong information getting out ...''
Yet consider the accuracy of statements Mayor Robinson has made regarding personnel cuts totaling more than $500,000.
Announcing that Mr. Greer would be returning to his police chief duties at the Aug. 23 Board of Aldermen meeting, Mayor Robinson said, "... In addition to the $500,000 worth of cuts I've made, we're making another change in the city ... I proposed some cuts, and they've approved them, OK? The board approved it. That's what I'm saying.
"Anyway, we've got approved cuts, and they'll be notified shortly. But in addition to that, we are also, we're making a change,'' he said, referring to Mr. Greer.
Here's what he said in the Septem-ber/October issue of Crestwood Connec-tions: "Recently, I presented to the Board of Aldermen and they approved a list of personnel cuts which will help reduce approximately $500,000 in employee ex-penditures. These cuts will be made before Jan. 1, 2006.''
Yet in response to requests the Call made to the city under the provisions of the Mis-souri Open Meetings and Records Law, also called the Sunshine Law, the only vote taken in a closed session during July, August or September involved Mr. Greer returning to his full-time duties as police chief and discontinuing his city administrator duties when a new city administrator is hired and begins work.
And at the Sept. 13 Board of Aldermen meeting, board President Tim Trueblood of Ward 2 said in response to a citizen's question: "... I do not remember nor is there any record that I can find of taking a vote or voting on any of the cuts ...''
We just can't help but question the accuracy of future information that will be provided by Mayor Robinson.
Though he's been in office less than six months, Mayor Robinson has managed to undo all of the progress the city has made in being open and responsive to citizens and the media over the past five years.
Mayor Robinson's slogan during his campaign to become mayor was "Bring Crest-wood Back.'' It's too bad Roy didn't tell voters he wanted to bring Crestwood back to the Dark Ages.