Sunshine Act Trial-Tuesday Morning
9:32 Mr. Hollow, Lawyer for the Plaintiff begins by citing case law supporting the validity of their request for a summery judgment against Commissioner Lambert for the failure to produce his phone records. He says that Lambert intentionally failed to produce the phone records.
9:35 Deputy Law Director Stackhouse responds by pointing out that even though Lambert did not produce his records, because the plaitiffs can work around it by correlating other phone records, a summary judgment is unecessary.
9:37 Chancellor Fansler says Lambert responded in a "cavalier manner." He wants to look at the the law cited by Hollow and wait for Cricket to respond to plaintiff's request for the records. He will wait a couple of days before ruling.
9:41 Jury arrives.
9:42 Courtroom is full today.
9:43 Chairman Scott Moore called to the stand. Mr. Moncier returns to the issue of the rules for County Commission meetings, which Moore used to deny citizens the ability to speak regarding any candidate for appointment. When Mr. Hollow asked Commissioner Moore about the rules,Moore said he didn't know exactly where the rule was. Mr. Moncier asked if Moore had had enough time over the weekend to find the rule. Moore reads the voting procedure. "In my mind, it's like baking a cake...If we added an extra step to it, you'd screw it up."
9:50 Moncier asks if Moore was aware that the County Charter said that the Commission could make the rules for the appointment process as they saw fit. Moore answers he's not sure, but he'll take Moncier's word for it. Moncier asks if Moore remembers telling Commissioner Schmid "no" when Schmid moved to allow the public to speak. Moore says he doesn't recall.
9:57 Moncier asks Moore if there was ever a vote on the agenda and Moore says there wasn't.
9:59 Moore wants to argue rather than respond. Moore testifies that the agenda was published and there was no objection. Moncier asks if Moore remembers getting a 4 page letter from citizens detailing objections to the planned meeting. Moore asks if any of those citizens ever contacted him or any other commission member. Moncier asks him to answer the question, and Moore admits he got the letter.
10:08 Moncier asks how did Moore's proposed agenda get sent to the KNS as the official agenda? Moore responded that somebody had to lay out the framework.
10:11 Moncier points out that there was a proposal to seek legislation for a special election, and asked Moore if he planned the date of the meeting to be before the legislature could pass the special legislation. Moore said no.
10:13 Moncier: Your proposal was to allow the Commissioners to make the appointment rather than allow the people to have an election, wasn't it? Stackhouse objects. Fansler overrules.
10:15 Owings was appointed by the County Commission wasn't he? Yes.
10:20 Mr. Hollow begins his questioning. Hollow: Are there any specific rules in the Charter regarding special called meetings? Moore: I don't know.
10:21 Mr. Hollow reads rules that say that the agenda cannot be changed for a special called meeting. Moore responds that the rule says nothing can be added, but things can be moved around. Mr. Hollow reads County Commission rules that state that if any commission rule conflicts with state law, the commission rule is not in effect.
Moore worked hard to avoid answering some questions, and to redirect answers for others.
10:25 Scott Barker called to the stand.
10:26 Moncier explores Barker's article reporting a possible meeting of commissioners discussing possible appointments. Barker testified that he talked with Commissioner Ivan Harmon, and that Commissioner Harmon admitted to talking to Commissioner Lambert in general terms about the appointments. Barker also testified that of the 8 commissioners he spoke to, 6 acknowledged talking to other commissioners about the appointments. Moncier has Barker read a direct quote from Moore on Jan 30th stating that lobbying commissioners would be against the law.
10:33 Jury sent out on morning break while an objection to a deposition Mr. Hollow wants to read. Objection overruled. 10 minute break.
10:54 Mr. Hollow reads from Commissioner Schmid's deposition. Schmid says he submitted a plan including public hearings, public debate, then an appointment process. He says that the plan was similar to that proposed by County Mayor Mike Ragsdale, and at one point, Chairman Moore also supported public meetings, but he changed his mind. Schmid was asked about factions on the commission. Scott Moore and Greg Lambert were aligned with the sheriff. "We can do anything we want." Lumpy Lambert regarding the appointment process as quoted by Schmid in his deposition.
Schmid "pled his case" for his candidate. He wanted a compromise candidate that wasn't aligned with the sheriff or the mayor. He also mentioned that the county wide offices, sheriff and the three fee offices had candidates that "had the votes."
11:11 Reading from the deposition continues. It was a "done deal" for the folks being appointed to the county wide offices. Recesses were commonly used when impasses occurred at County Commission meetings. They would take a break to try and "work things out." Often recesses were used to try and change commissioners minds to a new position.
11:16 The first recess came from an impasse over Guthe's seat. There was major lobbying and Schmid admits to being part of the lobbying. Guthe was angry that his candidate, Jim Smelcher didn't make it when that was the "gentleman's agreement" in place. There was heavy pressure on Diane Jordan to change her vote from Davis to Tramel. There was an effort to swear in Commssioner Cate early, but he backed out. Lambert called Schmid a "peckerhead." Commissioners invloved in trying to get Cate sworn in early to break the deadlock: Pinkston, Lambert, and Moore.
11:29 Reading from Schmid's deposition completed.
11:33 Moncier calls Hayes Hickman(sp?) to analyze telephone records. Hickman is a reporter for the Sentinel, and was tasked with going through Scott Moore's phone logs to determine his contacts with other commissioners. Long list of phone calls added to the record detailing contacts between Scott Moore and commissioners, the county mayor, and eventual appointees.
11:51 Moncier is stressing call volume patterns based on external events,ie County Mayor Mike Ragsdale's announcement of his plan for replacing the term limited officeholders.
12:00 Break for lunch
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<i>Moore answers he's not sure</i>
<i>Moore says he doesn't recall</i>
<i>Moore: I don't know.</i>
Boy, it's a good thing we've got someone as infinitely familiar with commission guidelines and rules as Commissioner Moore to be the Chairman....
The next Commission meeting is Monday the 24th. Will the Commission meeting be postponed? The biggest issue in this meeting is whether to require Mayor Ragsdale and his staff to repay over $120,000 back to the taxpayers. I suspect at the rate Hollow is proceeding this trial will take another three weeks.
Today’s reporting in the Sentinel seemed slanted. Mark Harmon confessed to violating the Sunshine Law but it wasn’t reported that way in the Sentinel. Will others receive such kind treatment? Perhaps Mike Hammond, R. Larry Smith, Craig Leuthold, and Phil Ballard?
The case is done. The do-over is a certainty. Only jury nullification could change the result.
The questions ahead are what happens if some of the eight term limited Commissioners refuse to come back to make appointments? Will they be compelled by the court?
What happens if any of the eight appointed Commissioners refuse to step down? Will the court compel them to step down?
What happens if Commission lets everyone and their dog that wants the job have 10 minutes to give a speech and hand in a resume, then appoints the same eight people?
What happens if Commission appoints a different Hutchison supporter to Lee Tramel's seat? What happens if Ragsdale gets the 4th District seat? Ragsdale is fighting for his political life. He desperately needs those 10 votes. Possibly to keep him out of jail.
This is just the beginning. And it sells newspapers.
Once again, the real solution is to have a vote for a recall option on the ballot. We see now we have no way to control either the office of Mayor or County Commission. Yet Mr. McElroy has yet to write an editorial about the recall vote. Why is that?
More importantly, is McElroy covering for Mayor Ragsdale?
A day late, but they finally printed it.