A Platte County judge removed the mayor of Tracy, Mo., on Friday for hiring her son-in-law to do repair work for the city.
Rita A. Rhoads had been mayor since 2008. On Monday, Prosecutor Eric Zahnd filed a civil action to remove Rhoads from office for violating the Missouri Constitution’s ban on nepotism. Rhoads agreed to pay $100 to her son-in-law to fix a city sign despite knowing that the law prohibited her from hiring him to do work for the city, Zahnd said.
Circuit Judge Owens Lee Hull Jr. found that Rhoads violated the state constitution and removed her from office.
A city employee had warned Rhoads that she could not hire her son-in-law, but she persisted anyway, authorities said.
“I don’t care,” Rhoads purportedly responded. “They need the money.”
Reached by phone Friday, Rhoads declined to comment.
Earlier this week, Hull issued a preliminary order barring her from exercising authority as mayor and ordering her to respond to the prosecutor’s lawsuit within 15 days.
Under Missouri law, prosecutors can file such a suit — called a “petition in quo warranto” — to remove an elected official from office should she commit nepotism.
“Today’s decision reaffirms that public officials cannot use their office to enrich family members, regardless of whether it is for $100 or $100,000,” Zahnd said in a statement.
According to the lawsuit, Rhoads hired son-in-law Matthew Spores to repair a sign that had been damaged by a drunk driver. The $100 check initially was made out to MDS Construction, for which Spores had been a registered agent. However, when Spores could not cash the check, he returned it to Rhoads, who then wrote a check to Spores on a city account, the lawsuit alleged.
Rhoads also had hired Spores to perform other work for the city, including repairing a garage door and replacing a water heater. Rhoads maintained that she did not try to cover up who received the money, even though it was undisputed that she approved an invoice to her son-in-law’s defunct business, Zahnd said.
After the son-in-law could not cash the check, Rhoads admitted she handwrote a second check payable to him personally rather than to his nonexistent business, Zahnd said.
Tracy is a small community near Platte City with a population of just over 200.