Franklin County’s top elected official Tuesday was critical of a candidate vying to replace one of his co-workers.
Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said his integrity was impugned after an “unnamed candidate” for county commissioner said Griesheimer was misleading the public.
On Tuesday, April 10, Griesheimer announced the commission would not have a public meeting the following week, on Tuesday, April 17, because commissioners were planning on attending meetings in Jefferson City.
The commission held a working session on Thursday, April 19.
Griesheimer said the unnamed candidate “who has run for public office for this commission several times before,” was critical of the commission at a Union Republican Women’s Club meeting that night.
Out of the nine Republican candidates running for the two associate commission seats this year, only two have run for county commission seats previously — Ron Keeven, New Haven, and Jerry Landing, Sullivan.
Griesheimer told The Missourian that Keeven was the candidate he was speaking about following Tuesday’s meeting.
“We didn’t have a commission meeting last week,” Griesheimer said. “I don’t want any public candidates to misconstrue anything.
“I love my job. I make a lot of mistakes, but I don’t play ‘gotcha’ and I don’t lie to people,” he said.
“We didn’t sandbag anybody,” Griesheimer told The Missourian.
Keeven told The Missourian he never said Griesheimer or anyone else had lied when he spoke to the women’s club.
He said he regularly attends the club meetings to provide updates on what is going on in county government, something he has been doing for nine to 10 months.
“My statement was that the previous week, commissioners said there would be no meeting. They didn’t say no commission meeting or working sessions, they just said no meetings,” Keeven said.
He said he saw the meeting posted on a bulletin board in the building when attending a planning and zoning meeting April 17.
“If it can be posted on the bulletin board for the public to know, there’s no reason for it not to go online,” Keeven said.
Keeven complimented Griesheimer, saying that the commission has become more transparent since he took office.
“I didn’t mean to ruffle anyone’s feathers and I damn sure didn’t call anyone a liar,” Keeven said. “I’m just a citizen trying to find out what is going on in county government.”
Griesheimer defeated Keeven and Landing in 2010 in the Republican primary for presiding commissioner. He is not up for re-election this year, but current First District Commissioner Terry Wilson is. Second District Commissioner Ann Schroeder is not seeking another term.
During the meeting, Griesheimer said the commission holds different types of meetings — commission meetings which are open to the public, typically held on Tuesdays and allow for public comment; working sessions which are open to the public but do not allow for public comments at which specific issues are discussed; and administrative working sessions which do not require a notice to be posted and only business related to performing administrative functions the commission is required to perform by law is discussed.
County Counselor Mark Vincent said the county strives to comply with Missouri’s open meeting laws, also referred to as the Sunshine Law.
Vincent said people often have a misconception of what is and is not a public meeting.
He noted that RSMo. 610-010 defines public meetings.
Vincent called attention to Paragraph 5 of that section, which in part states “The term ‘public meeting’ shall not include an informal gathering of members of a public governmental body for ministerial or social purposes when there is no intent to avoid the purposes” of the open meeting laws.