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Trueblood casts 'no' vote on motion for closed session

October 26, 2005 - Crestwood Board of Aldermen President Tim Trueblood last week cast a "no'' vote on a motion for the board to enter a closed session, contending one of the matters cited on the agenda didn't qualify for a closed session under state law.

The Oct. 17 closed, or executive, session of the Board of Aldermen was called to discuss a legal matter and a real estate matter, according to the agenda posted by the city in accordance with the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Law, also called the Sunshine Law.

"I felt that the real estate issue was not something that qualified for executive session,'' Trueblood told the Call.

But Mayor Roy Robinson told the Call that City Attorney Rob Golterman said the reasons for the closed session cited on the agenda — a legal matter and a real estate issue — complied with the Sunshine Law, which permits governmental bodies to meet in closed session to discuss a limited number of specific issues.

"It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law,'' the law states. The law further states that its provisions "shall be liberally construed'' and its exceptions permitting closed meetings shall be "strictly construed.''

The vote to enter the closed session was 5-1 with Trueblood opposed. Ward 2 Al-derman Jim Kelleher and Ward 3 Alder-man Don Maddox were absent.

Trueblood of Ward 2 said he did not have a problem entering the closed session to discuss a legal matter, "but the real estate (matter) when I asked the question to the city administrator (Don Greer) and, also at the meeting, the city attorney, does this closed executive session involve the purchase, the sale or the lease of property by or for the city of Crestwood? I was told: 'Close enough.' And I felt based on that, it was not appropriate to go into executive session on real estate. It either is or it isn't. It's not close enough.''

The Sunshine Law's real estate exception permits a closed meeting to discuss the lease, purchase or sale of real estate "by a public governmental body where public knowledge of the transaction might adversely affect the legal consideration therefor.''

Under the Sunshine Law, an elected official who objects to a closed session "shall be allowed to fully participate in any meeting, record or vote that is closed from the public over the member's objection.''

Once the closed session was convened, Trueblood said he again voiced his objection to using the real estate exception.

"I brought the issue up again (in closed session) and I went on the record again stating I felt that we were in violation of the Missouri statutes regarding executive sessions in that area for real estate because again I asked: 'Does this involve the sale, purchase or lease of property by the city?' And in my opinion ... the sale, purchase or lease was not the issue concerning real estate that was talked about. We talked about real estate, but not the lease, purchase or sale of it,'' he said.

Asked about Trueblood's contention that the real estate exception did not qualify for a closed session, Robinson said, "Well, our city attorney said it was ...''

Regarding Trueblood's assertion that the real estate issue did not involve the sale, purchase or lease of property, the mayor said, "... I don't know what he's talking about. In fact, he shouldn't even be discussing anything with anybody ... You can get the votes, but he's not supposed to be discussing anything that's going on in the (closed) meeting. So I don't know what his reasons are.

"The only thing I can say is that based on what we were talking about the city attorney said we were in line,'' he added.

Aldermen recently voted 5-1 to adopt an ordinance authorizing a $3 million line of credit with Southwest Bank, pledging City Hall and the property on which it sits as collateral. During his town-hall meeting last week, Robinson stated that the Public Works Department property on Pardee Lane also would have to be used as collateral. The Board of Aldermen was scheduled to consider an ordinance borrowing up to $3.5 million from Southwest Bank "pursuant to a line of credit note, promissory note and loan agreement'' Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

Trueblood said, "The mayor has told you in the most recent town-hall meeting that the property on Pardee Lane, which I be-lieve is Public Works property, was the other piece of property involved in this (closed session) discussion and those properties were not discussed to be sold or leased to anybody nor we were talking about purchasing any other property ...''

Robinson told the Call, "I probably shouldn't have said anything about that, but as I understand it, and we're not through the whole process yet, that one of the things that the bank wanted was those two properties as collateral for the line of credit.''

Trueblood said the closed session discussion did not encompass selling, purchasing or leasing any property.

"... If they said we want to lease property to somebody, absolutely executive session,'' he said. "If we want to sell property to somebody, absolutely executive session. If we want to buy property — totally. But as the mayor said in his town-hall meeting of the 20th, he put Pardee Lane up for collateral and he's admitted basically that he's telling us now what was talked about in executive session. So the question is why did we do it?''

No votes were taken in the Oct. 17 closed session.

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