A lawsuit filed by three Franklin County residents, including one candidate for political office, was taken under advisement by a circuit court judge Monday.
Judge John Berkemeyer heard arguments from the three plaintiffs — Art LeBeau and Eric Reichert, both of Villa Ridge, and Ron Keeven, New Haven, a Republican candidate for First District commissioner — and County Counselor Mark Vincent.
The plaintiffs are alleging county commissioners have no authority to cede signatory power to a single official.
The three filed a lawsuit challenging a commission resolution to further refinancing of outstanding certificate of participation bonds.
That resolution authorized Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer to sign documents related to the refinancing process, as opposed to requiring them to be signed by all three commissioners.
Vincent said all counties, cities and school districts in Missouri delegate signatory powers in a similar manner, in accordance with RSMo. 432.070.
“It is one of those statutes that is so clear, it has never been challenged,” Vincent said during the hearing Monday.
He said the lawsuit was the reason the county had to postpone refinancing the bonds.
“It potentially could jeopardize our ability to capitalize on favorable interest rates (which would) save the county $4 million,” Vincent told Judge Berkemeyer.
In Vincent’s motion to dismiss, he asked Berkemeyer to require a $2 million cash-only bond from the plaintiffs, which would be used to cover any loss of savings the county wished to capitalize by refinancing.
Says County Requests Are a Ploy
LeBeau called the issue of refinancing a ploy.
“They’re using this… to stop three people and the entire county from saying that they can’t cede their authority,” he said. “It isn’t about personal vendettas, but every doggone person should follow the doggone law.”
LeBeau told Judge Berkemeyer that the men could find no statute or law giving commissioners the power to cede their authority.
“We’re simply asking under what authority can they cede their power,” he said.
Reichert said the men have repeatedly asked commissioners to “show us the law.
“The general consensus is if the county doesn’t have the explicit power to do something, they can’t do it,” he said.
Reichert said the lawsuit was “just three men doing their civic duty.”
Judge Berkemeyer told LeBeau that the plaintiffs have the burden of providing case law contrary to the commission’s practice.
“There may be no way you can force someone to answer your question, no matter who that may be,” Judge Berkemeyer said.
Claim County Hiding Something
“Responsible, fiscal government would require all three commissioners to sign the document and review the contracts,” Reichert said.
Keeven said delegating the power to sign documents furthering the refinancing of the bonds eliminated the chance for openness.
He said if only one person has to sign a document, then there is no need for discussion and therefore no meeting.
“There is an issue there hidden (as to) why they’re trying to do it this way,” Keeven said.
Vincent said he took offense to Keeven’s claim that the county has something to hide and noted that the original certificates of participation, issued in 2005, 2007 and 2008, were signed by only then-Presiding Commissioner Ed Hillhouse.
“It’s false, it’s scandalous and it’s wrong,” Vincent said. “Ministerial functions can be delegated. To only have the authority to sign (a document), that’s ministerial.”
Judge Berkemeyer said he would take the motions filed by the men and Vincent under advisement, but didn’t know when he would issue a ruling.
About 25 people attended the hearing in Union.