ELLISVILLE, MO (KMOX) - At the door sits a metal detector. Inside is an elementary school gymnasium filled with folding chairs which are themselves filled with dozens of shouting residents waving homemade signs.
It was the scene eleven months ago at Ellisville Elementary School and it will likely be the scene Monday night.
A saga that began last spring with the approval by the Ellisville City Council of tax increment financing (TIF) for retail giant Wal-Mart will come to a head tonight with the impeachment hearing of Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul.
Sitting behind a table, Ellisville City Council members, some of whom will testify against Mr. Paul, will then decide his fate. Cross examination will be orchestrated by defense attorneys for Paul, led by Chet Pleban.
Paul was elected with 44 percent of the vote last year in a field of four contestants. At tonight’s hearing, scheduled to begin at six o’clock, many supporters of Paul will wear stickers reading “Kangaroo Court” to reflect the belief that the impeachment of the city’s mayor is revenge for his opposition to the Wal-Mart TIF.
Paul’s opposition was ultimately moot with the City Council approving the money on May 2 of last year. The look of that council is expected to change dramatically tomorrow after elections in which roughly half of the seats could change hands.
Emails subpoenaed by Paul’s attorneys allegedly show a conspiracy concocted by city council members to find reasons to fire him just months after he was elected. The most scandalous of charges against Paul, such as drinking alcohol on the job, had to be dropped by the council in early March but there is a list of others Paul will be tried on Monday night.
A St. Louis County Circuit Court judge Friday denied a motion to halt tonight’s impeachment hearing. Pleban, Paul’s attorney, argued that the city’s charter is unconstitutional and therefore the impeachment attempt should be grounded.
“The charter provision here is so unconstitutionally vague that Adam Paul should not have to go through an impeachment process and the people of the city of Ellisville should not have to go through an impeachment process,” Pleban said.
Pleban argued that the charter allows for frivolous charges and claims that the City Council is hopelessly biased but Judge Robert Cohen ruled against Pleban’s interpretation Friday morning. Cohen instead sided with Ellisville city attorneys who argued that the impeachment cannot be challenged until someone is actually harmed, i.e. the mayor is removed from office. Pleban had hoped to push the April 1 hearing to a date beyond the April 2 elections.
On March 18 the Ellisville City Council was ordered to hand over a number of documents to Pleban ahead of the impeachment hearing. Previously, the council argued the documents, which include conversations between council members and city attorney Paul Martin, would violate attorney-client privilege if made public but the hearing officer ruled the council waived that privilege when it made the motion to impeach Paul.
“I was the unexpected child. I wasn’t supposed to happen,” Paul said in a press conference last month, claiming council members immediately had an axe to grind and he was their target. The council then began “throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks.”
As for his client’s chances, Pleban said in the same press conference that he is confident Paul will be impeached and one of his accusers will be the interim mayor. “This was planned long-term,” he said. Paul added that he will run for mayor again if impeached.