Pacific Mayor Herb Adams is asking aldermen to approve a line item budget of $12,000 for a study of the city’s cemetery records.
The aldermen have given preliminary approval by completing the first reading of the budget at the regular board meeting Monday, June 3.
The proposed study stems from an ongoing dispute between city officials and Bell Funeral Home owner Jeff Palmore, who claims the city misidentified and misdeeded two cemetery lots Palmore claims he owns.
Palmore previously showed city officials at a board meeting earlier this year a bill of sale dated Oct. 24, 1997, that states the previous owner of the funeral home, Byron Bell, had bought three burial plots in the city cemetery. When Palmore purchased the funeral home in 1999, he said he acquired all its assets, including the grave spaces.
Palmore buried one person in one of the plots, but claims the city created a dummy deed in the name of Dora Kemper and assigned all three lots to her.
Adams said he had a two-hour meeting with Palmore recently and told him about his plans to budget $12,000 to look into the cemetery’s records.
“We are going to do more than count stones and record the names carved on those stones,” he said. “We will also look at the transfer of properties.”
The city previously had hired a company from St. Louis to do a study, but the company backed out and the study has not been done.
Adams has proposed a more in-depth study than just checking names and ownership of the graves and said this time, he wants to seek bids from companies to research records.
Adams said he wanted input from Palmore, city officials, including Alan Bruns, the city sexton, on what the study would entail. The bid proposal would then be forwarded to the city’s cemetery committee for approval, then brought before the board to see if the proposal would need any amendments before it was published.
The request for bids would then be published in various cities across the state and in Franklin County.
“We want to put it out for bid to get the best talent out there,” he said.
Adams said he hopes to have the request for bids done by December and published in January.
If a company is hired, he said the study could be finished before April of 2014.
“Wherever it takes us, we will find the truth,” he said. “We want to leave the citizens the same assurance that was found in the state audit.”
Palmore spoke before the board at the regular meeting June 3 and claimed numerous mistakes have been made regarding the grave plots in question. He admonished several board members because he said they had voted several times to meet with him on the matter, but canceled each meeting.
“I have not been clear in explaining why you should meet with me,” Palmore said. “I have been remiss in telling you this is not a case of a willing deed transfer or a mistake, although numerous mistakes have been made regarding this grave plot. This is not a case that Jeff Palmore’s graves are in someone else’s name. You failed to see the big picture here.”
Palmore claims that former city sexton August Bruns Sr. stole his grave spaces, created a counterfeit deed to conceal his deeds and caused an official deed to be issued in Bruns’ name.
Palmore also told the board he has the counterfeit deeds and other cemetery deeds in his records and said he has showed them to various officials.
“I can show you hundreds of graves that August Bruns bought with people buried in them,” he said.