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Appeals court upholds ouster of Tracy mayor

The Missouri Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a Platte County judge’s decision to remove the mayor of Tracy from office for hiring her son-in-law to do repair work for the city.

Rita A. Rhoads, who had been mayor since 2008, was ousted last July 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 work for the city.

Rhoads could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In her appeal, Rhoads maintained that because her son-in-law was acting as an independent contractor, she did not appoint him to “employment” with the city. The court said it disagreed.

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd filed a civil action on July 9, 2012, requesting that Rhoads be removed from the office of mayor.

According to the lawsuit, Rhoads hired son-in-law Matthew Spores to repair a sign that had been damaged by a drunken driver. The check initially was made out to MDS Construction, where Spores had been a registered agent. When Spores could not cash the check, he returned it to Rhoads, who wrote another check to him on a city checking account.

A city employee had warned Rhoads that she could not hire her son-in-law, but she persisted, according to the lawsuit.

Rhoads previously had hired Spores to perform other city work, including repairing a garage door and replacing a water heater.

At the time, Rhoads said she did not try to cover up who received the money, even though she approved an invoice to her son-in-law’s defunct business.

Two weeks after Rhoads was removed as mayor, she was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Board of Aldermen by her replacement, Julie Thomas. Rhoads was re-elected to the board seat in April.