It took only seconds into Thursday’s meeting for there to be an uncomfortable exchange between Laddonia patrons and the Board of Aldermen.
In a room filled with nearly 20 Laddonia area residents, Melissa Deimeke opened up the patron input section of the meeting by sharing a concern in regards to the Mayor’s pay item listed on the agenda.
She said she was concerned that aldermen may consider increasing the mayor’s pay though the city had money issues.
Just two sentences into her remarks, Mayor Pro-Tem Jack Folta began to comment on the issue as she was still speaking.
“Can I finish please, let’s take time,” she said as Folta began to talk. “Or we won’t…”
Folta is an alderman serving as Mayor Pro-Tem after Deimeke’s husband Josh, the former mayor, resigned during the February board meeting.
Folta said the issue was misrepresented in an article in The Vandalia Leader.
He said one of the problems with the issue is not knowing just how many hours the mayor works and how many more hours a newly elected mayor would work as this information would be used to help determine what the mayor should be paid.
Deimeke followed by asking Folta if the city had discussed a possible number for what the mayor could be paid.
Folta said “no.”
Wanda Whiteaker then asked “Excuse me, can we hear that from the minutes?”
“I think we as taxpayers have the right to hear from the minutes,” Rick Painter added.
Alderman Ono Monachino said the information was discussed in a meeting three months ago.
Another patron then asked “where are these minutes kept?”
While Folta said the minutes are kept inside the building, Whiteaker said she would wait to see the minutes.
City Attorney Tom Ellis said that he thought providing minutes to the patrons as the aldermen’s meeting had already started was “premature.” He noted that aldermen still had a meeting agenda to go through.
Megan Bass, owner of Laddonia’s Hard Ride Cafe, Bakery & Saloon, responded by saying “But sir, with all due respect, the paper stated they weren’t available at this point in time.”
Bass was referencing the end of The Vandalia Leader’s February 18 article about then mayor Josh Deimeke’s resignation. The article stated that the minutes were not available as of press time and yet had to be received by the newspaper in time for the March meeting.
“Especially since you’re saying the newspaper had a misrepresentation then (the minutes) would clear that up real quick,” Whiteaker added.
Ellis reiterated that a meeting was underway and Whiteaker asked if the meeting could be adjourned for the purpose of retrieving the minutes.
Alderman Monachino said that none of the board members even asked for the mayor’s pay to be on the agenda and wanted it to be removed from it.
He said the discussion in the past always noted that the aldermen were not ready to make a decision.
Alderman Monte Hanson said the discussion on mayor’s pay came up three months ago and it was noted that it was sad that the mayor made less than the city’s dog catcher.
Alderman Hanson said no motion was made and the minutes were not intended to have discussions on them.
Later in the meeting, Whiteaker read an excerpt from Missouri’s Sunshine Law that she received from The Vandalia Leader’s Ron Schott. The law states “minutes are public record and should be and must be provided within 72 hours to the public.”
“It should be made public,” she said. “…If it’s a draft, state that it’s a draft.”
Lori Statham suggested posting minutes on the glass door of the City Building.
After a few seconds went by, Alderman Folta began discussing the pay issue again and said previous administrations jumped wages up for city officials back in the 1970s.
As some discussion was still being held amongst the patrons, Folta’s next comment fueled even more concern from those attending the meeting.
“If we can’t get this meeting going along, we will finish it in a closed session,” Folta said.
“Well that’s not fair,” Tony Weber said. “So you don’t hear what we want to say?”
Read the rest of this story in the March 18 issue of The Vandalia Leader or purchase an electronic edition copy at https://www.vandalialeader.com/?page_id=33