A local woman claims that the Franklin County Commission discriminated against her by refusing to appoint her to the planning and zoning board.
But Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said the process was handled correctly.
Teresa Connelly said her affiliation with a local environmental organization was used against her.
“I’m agitated because I was not given a fair shot,” Connelly said.
The group, the Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO), has sued the Franklin County Commission.
The lawsuit alleges that the county commission illegally adopted regulations allowing Ameren to build a coal-ash landfill in Labadie.
Connelly said it “looks bad” that the county commission appointed an Ameren employee over her for the open planning and zoning board seat.
But Griesheimer said Russell McCreary was not appointed to the open planning and zoning seat because of his affiliation with Ameren.
“It had nothing to do with Ameren,” Griesheimer said, adding that he and the other county commissioners felt McCreary was qualified for the job.
McCreary is a lineman for Ameren, according to Griesheimer.
McCreary could not be reached for comment.
“It’s sad” that the discrimination card has been played, Griesheimer said. This is just a case of Connelly having “sour grapes” over not being appointed, he added.
Connelly said Ameren is likely happy that they now have an employee on the county planning and zoning board.
But Griesheimer said if an issue related to Ameren came before the planing and zoning commission that McCreary would likely have to abstain from any vote.
The appointment of McCreary to the planning and zoning board shows that Griesheimer is serving his own special interests instead of representing the county, Connelly asserted.
“It’s a good-ol’-boys club around here,” Connelly said.
Griesheimer fired back saying that he could say the same about her having allegiance to LEO.
For Connelly “to throw mud” on the commissioners shows she has ulterior motives and that she is not looking out for the best interests of Franklin County, Griesheimer said.
He said he told Connelly a few months ago that he would not appoint her to the planning board since she was an officeholder with LEO.
But Connelly said she was not an officeholder, just a board member. And she said she resigned her LEO board seat last year because she was running for county commission.
However, she said she recently rejoined LEO because she is passionate about not letting a utility waste landfill to be built in a floodplain.
LEO lost its case against the county earlier this year in circuit court but is now appealing.
Griesheimer explained that he could not appoint someone who was connected to a group that had filed a lawsuit against the county.
Her affiliation with LEO meant that she would have been a biased member of the board, Griesheimer added.
“Why would I want to appoint someone who is suing us?” Griesheimer asked. “It doesn’t work that way.”
But Connelly said it is unfair for Griesheimer to judge her by the company she keeps.
“Absolutely, I’m being discriminated against,” Connelly said, adding that Griesheimer would rather have someone on the board who agrees with him as opposed to someone with different views.
Griesheimer said he wanted to appoint a board member with an open mind who would look at both sides of an issue.
Connelly said she could have been objective as a member of the planning and zoning board.
“I’m an honest person,” she said.
The Franklin County Commission on Tuesday voted 3-0 to appoint McCreary to the planning and zoning commission. McCreary takes the place of Eugene Tyler who resigned from his seat. McCreary’s appointment will last until July 1, 2014.
Connelly said she is upset because she was not even interviewed for the position.
Griesheimer said she was not interviewed because the commissioners were already familiar with her stances on various community issues since she had sought public office before.
Second District County Commissioner Mike Schatz defeated Connelly in last November’s election.
Connelly said she would have been a valuable member of the planning and zoning board, adding that she received a certificate for planning and zoning classes she took through the University of Missouri in St. Louis.
Just because Connelly has training does not mean she would make a good planning and zoning board member, Griesheimer said.
While the commissioners did not interview Connelly, they did meet with McCreary.
The commissioners did not know McCreary prior to his appointment, Griesheimer said.
“We all felt comfortable that he would weigh both sides of the issues and make a qualified decision,” Griesheimer said.
It is difficult to find people to serve on the planning and zoning commission, he said, adding that whomever was chosen for this seat had to live in unincorporated Union Township.