The Lee’s Summit City Council this week will discuss whether to consider whether to remove Councilwoman Diane Forte from office.
Voters in April already removed on councilman, Chris Moreno, in a recall election. Moreno blasted Forte after she sold awards to the Parks and Recreation Department, without bidding out those items. In April, Forte reached a settlement with the Missouri Ethics Commission over that issue and her critics say that according to the city charter. she should leave office as well.
They cite Section 14.1. Personal Financial Interest:
“Any elected or appointed officer, employee, or member of any committee, authority, board or commission of the city who has any direct or indirect substantial financial interest (as defined by the conflict of interest statutes of Missouri) (a) in any party transacting business with the city, or (b) in the subject matter of any city transaction, shall make known that interest and shall refrain from voting upon or otherwise participating in his or her capacity as a city officer, employee or member in such transaction. Any city officer, employee or member who willfully conceals such a substantial financial interest or willfully violates the requirements of this section shall be guilty of malfeasance in office or position and shall forfeit the office or position. Violation of this section with the express or implied knowledge of the party transacting business with the city shall render the transaction voidable by the city.”
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The Missouri Ethics Commission imposed a fee of $1,938 in the settlement, reducing it to $387 if Forte paid within 45 days. Forte said she was unaware of the state law. The violation was for $768 and $1,170 for volunteer trophies she sold to the parks department.
State law says that purchases from an elected official of $500 or more need to go through formal bids process. The city’s policies did not require formal bids until reaching a $1,000 threshold. Forte reported the sales on required financial disclosures as required by state law, the ethics Commission and city.
Mayor Randy Rhoads has put a discussion of the issue on the May 11 agenda.
“We’ve never done this before,” Rhoads said. “It is going to require a lot of work and research. I don’t think we need to go down this path unless a majority of the council thinks it is necessary.”
City Attorney Brian Head said that if the council decides it needs to go forward with hearings, his office would complete the research it needs to advise the council and prepare a process.
The section of the charter being cited by her critics doesn’t automatically remove her from office, Head said. The relevant section uses subjective words like “willingly” and “substantial,” and he will have to advise the council on how they apply to the case.
“They’re going to have to make the decision,” Head said.