A Ferrelview town meeting turned into “almost a barroom brawl” Tuesday night — and in the end the Northland town’s police chief was suspended and its city attorney had resigned.
When the chairwoman of the board of trustees, Theresa Wilson, called for an abrupt adjournment of the scheduled meeting, the angry audience pressed against the board table and prompted city officials to push panic buttons to summon Platte County sheriff’s deputies.
“It literally almost became a barroom brawl,” Wilson said. “It’s been a nightmare. We can’t get any city business done.”
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But after adjourning the meeting, three of the five board members reconvened in a controversial emergency closed-door meeting during which the police chief, Daniel Clayton, was suspended with pay, Wilson confirmed.
Wilson accused Clayton of “instigating” much of the anger that threatened the board Tuesday night.
“He failed his duties completely,” Wilson said.
Board member Phil Gilliam, who has been supporting Clayton, said that the city’s attorney, Scott L. Campbell, advised him not to attend the meeting because the attorney told him the meeting was violating Missouri’s statute on open meetings.
Gilliam said the attorney told him he would resign if the board conducted the special meeting.
Wednesday, Campbell sent a resignation letter to the board. His letter did not state a reason for his resignation, and Campbell told The Star that he could not comment because his conversations with board members were bound by attorney-client privilege.
Gilliam said that Wilson and the majority of the board opposing Clayton riled the audience by trying to shut down the meeting and then forcing their way out through the crowd.
“There were outbursts on both sides,” Gilliam said.
There was no emergency, however, that necessitated the board reconvening without public notice in closed session to discuss action against Clayton, Gilliam said.
\Wilson said the board had appropriate cause to convene the emergency meeting.
Missouri state statute requires city governmental bodies to post notices of meetings 24 hours in advance “unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical, in which case as much notice as is reasonably possible shall be given.”
Gilliam said he is making a complaint to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.
Clayton believes the board is wrong in suspending him.
“Something needs to happen,” he said. “I feel my suspension was unjust and unfair. There are no grounds for it, no cause for it. It violated state statutes.”
Clayton is facing other challenges as police chief. Citizen excessive force complaints filed with the Missouri Department of Public Safety resulted in the department’s issuing a complaint that Clayton has violated state regulations governing law enforcement officers.
A hearing before the Missouri Department of Public Safety Commission is set for Feb. 6.
“I plan on sticking it out,” Clayton said. “Hopefully justice will prevail. I’m not worried about my administrative hearing.”