ELLISVILLE, Mo. (KMOX) – Mayor Adam Paul’s impeachment trial, on stage in a gymnasium packed spectators groaning and chuckling along, now bleeds into Election Day after a six-hour marathon hearing on Monday.
For half of that time, defense attorney Chet Pleban attempted to have the case dismissed for various reasons.
Then, the council heard from several people about their sometimes testy encounters with Paul in the year since his election on an anti-tax-incentives-for-Walmart platform.
To start off, Pleban continued his refrain of challenging city council members’ prejudice and bias. He also referenced emails between the city attorney and various participants which he said suggested a conspiracy. He claimed the process by which the hearing officer and prosecutor were hired was illegal.
Pleban recounted his deposition with councilman Troy Pieper, who said under oath that he hadn’t been involved with the hiring of the officials even though he had, in fact, voted along with the rest of the council for their retention.
But at each and every turn, Pleban was denied by hearing officer John Maupin.
That, Pleban said, was a result of the trial being “fixed” and Maupin acting both as judge and also as counsel for the council.
“I guess when you come through Ellisville, throw the constitution out because it doesn’t exist [here],” Pleban remarked, after his motions were summarily and universally denied.
Maupin even told Pleban that he wasn’t allowed to call council members to testify. If he had any questions for them, Maupin announced, Pleban had the chance to ask while doing depositions.
Pleban, meantime, proudly admitted that his challenges were an attempt to stretch the trial into multiple days.
“If I can delay this until the end of April, I’m fine with that,” he told reporters. “I just want a body that’s fair and impartial.”
Election Day is today, Tuesday, and Paul-aligned candidates have a shot at capturing half of the council. But even if they succeed, it typically takes a couple of weeks to certify results and swear-in the winners.
The trial must end no later than this Wednesday, according to provisions in the Ellisville charter. So, the only real effect the election could have is to put pressure on the incumbents.
GETTING TO BUSINESS
A roar of laughter rose from the audience after Pleban called City Attorney Paul Martin to testify, only to find that Martin wasn’t in the house. Pleban claimed that Martin had “skipped outta town”‘ to avoid being subpoenaed. Mayor Paul had publicly discussed replacing Martin.
“Paul? Paul?” Pleban called out, as he wheeled around and scanned the audience for Martin.
Ironically, the council’s only act Monday night was to add an additional charge against the mayor for avoiding a subpoena.
Process server Antoinette Kovar testified that Paul not only slammed the door in her face when she tried to serve him, but he denied that he was himself. Upon cross-examination, however, Kovar refused to elaborate on allegations that she assaulted Paul’s wife in the process.
Pleban objected and said she couldn’t “pick and choose” which parts of the encounter she wanted to talk about but, just as in all of his appeals to the hearing officer, he was denied.
The next witness was Jennifer Kaniecki, an employee with a company retained by controversial Wal-Mart developer Sansone Group to deal with residents relocated from apartments on the site of the store. One charge against the mayor is that he inappropriately contacted her without council authorization.
She testified that Mayor Paul only asked her questions and she didn’t find him confrontational.
Then came a series of Ellisville police officers, including Chief Tom Felgate, who testified that the Mayor, both in-person and via email, asked for a gun and a badge. Paul has said he just wanted to know if the equipment was part of the job. But the prosecution pointed out that Paul wrote “I want one!” in an email to the chief.
Officers also recounted the chain of events at two city council meetings, including one from early last year in which former council member Katie James was ejected at the Mayor’s request. Police Lt. Kelly Murray said he hadn’t seen James make any threatening gestures although he couldn’t be sure because he was scanning the entire room.
“I want to have sympathy for Adam,” James told KMOX News during one of the hearing’s numerous recesses, but she added that many city officials and council members had been rebuffed when offering advice to him.
At another meeting this past February, Paul asked the Chief to remove former mayoral candidate Robert Srote. The Chief refused. Paul later said he thought he saw a gun-shaped object in Srote’s pocket but the prosecution hammered on Paul’s lack of police report.
The Chief also noted that he received an email from Paul saying that the mayor wasn’t going to “tolerate this behavior” and telling Chief Felgate “don’t let it happen again.” Prosecutor Cheung asked the Chief who his superior is and Felgate said “the City Manager.”
KANGAROO COURT CLAIMS
As the clock ticked down to six o’clock, a long line formed outside the entrance to the Ellisville Elementary School gymnasium. Police officers manned a metal detector at the door.
Inside, most seats were filled and there were people standing around the side and back walls.
Mayor Paul’s supporters wore stickers with a drawing of a kangaroo wearing glasses and a robe, sitting behind a court bench. They made April Fool’s Day references since the hearing took place on April 1st.
The hearing resumes at 7 p.m. Tuesday.