January 13, 2014

Grandview mayor resigns without explanation, surprising city officials

Grandview Mayor Steve Dennis has resigned, and city officials say the news came as a shock. In a letter submitted Friday, Dennis, who was re-elected last April, gave no explanation for stepping away in the middle of his second term. Alderman Brent Steeno will take over mayoral duties temporarily.

Grandview officials said Monday they were shocked to receive a letter of resignation last week from Mayor Steve Dennis.

Dennis, who had been mayor for three years, submitted his resignation, effective immediately, about 5 p.m. Friday. He gave no explanation for stepping away in the middle of his second term.

“It did surprise me,” said Brent Steeno, the president of the Grandview Board of Aldermen. “Personally, I was pretty shocked.”

Steeno will assume the duties of the mayor temporarily. The board, at its regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, will consider an ordinance calling for a special election April 8 to fill the open mayoral position.

The timeline could be tight. Jan. 21 is the filing deadline for other races on the April ballot in Missouri.

The second alternative, said Grandview spokeswoman Ana Nixon, would be for the board to appoint someone to serve as mayor into early 2015.

Dennis was re-elected last April, and his term was not set to expire until 2015. The Grandview mayor is paid $16,229 a year as a part-time job.

This is, by far, the most difficult decision that I have ever had to make and the most difficult letter that I have ever had to compose, as I have lived my entire life in this city and have served over 13 years in elected office, the last three as Mayor,” the resignation letter said.

Dennis did not return calls to his home and cellphone Monday. Nor did he respond to emails.

A Grandview police spokesman said the department is not investigating public officials. Nixon said there is no investigation involving the city or its finances.

Steeno, elected to the board in April 2011, praised the work Dennis has done as mayor.

“I think he was a great mayor,” Steeno said. “The citizens of Grandview loved him. He was a great cheerleader for the city. He believed in the city and was steering the city in a good direction.”

Specifically, Steeno mentioned redevelopment on Main Street and the ongoing redevelopment project at Truman Corners.

Steeno said city officials assume that Dennis, who also serves as a Navy drilling reservist, left office “for personal reasons, but I’m not 100 percent for sure. I know there is more to the story than him just resigning. This came out of nowhere. He was not forced out.”

Last April, Steeno learned that he and another alderman, John Maloney, had been listed by Dennis as directors in a nonprofit organization that Dennis had incorporated in 2011.

On his election information, Dennis was listed as executive director of Matters of the Heart, a nonprofit entity set up to “be a local community outreach to the poor and disadvantaged through direct volunteer involvement in education, literacy programs, entrepreneurial training and business mentoring,” according to a description filed with the Missouri secretary of state’s office.

But Steeno said he never was asked to be a director and knew nothing about the nonprofit. He said that when he confronted Dennis, the mayor told him it was a mistake and he had attempted to get the two names removed from the papers.

Steeno consulted a lawyer and in April 2013 sent a letter to the secretary of state saying his name was “falsely listed” as a director of Matters of the Heart Inc. Maloney did the same.

Matters of the Heart was administratively dissolved by the secretary of state’s office in December 2012 because required paperwork had not been filed.

Steeno said that once he filed his letter, he let the matter rest.

Maloney, who was elected to the board in 2011, said Grandview “will continue to move forward with serving our residents by providing highly trained public safety, improving our infrastructure, and strengthening our economic competitiveness.

“I was shocked to receive Mr. Dennis’ resignation, but I thank him for his service to our city and this nation.”

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