Carthage mayor vetos resolution calling for his impeachment

May 17—CARTHAGE, Mo. — Mayor Dan Rife put the brakes on an effort by some members of the Carthage City Council to impeach him during a special meeting Friday. He vetoed a resolution that included hiring a hearing officer and that also laid out the charges against him after the council voted 6-1 to approve it.

The veto forced the council to call another special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 20, at Carthage City Hall to attempt to override the veto.

Friday's meeting — the fifth special council meeting and eighth overall meeting of the council since new council members were sworn in on April 9 — turned into a 45-minute discussion between lawyers.

Rife gave the gavel to Mayor Pro Tem Alan Snow to preside over the meeting, saying he believed it was fair since the business of Friday's meeting was primarily about him.

Attorney Paul Martin, serving as special counsel to the City Council for the mayor's impeachment, described the process and presented a substitute resolution and bill of impeachment to replace the ones on Friday's agenda.

The substitute resolution removed a clause calling for the suspension of Rife for the duration of the impeachment process and added a new charge to the bill of impeachment, this one for Rife signing a contract on Wednesday with the Lauber Law Firm without council approval. The firm specializes in municipal law and serves as city attorneys for a number of Missouri communities.

The city had used the Lauber Law Firm as backup to former Carthage City Attorney Nate Dally since the middle of 2023, but the new council, sworn in on April 9 and including five new members, voted to fire that firm. Dally has since also resigned leaving the city without a city attorney at this time.

Martin told the council he had received an email from Nathan Nicholaus, with the Lauber Law Firm, earlier this week, expressing the opinion that suspending the mayor during the impeachment process was a mistake and could violate state statutes.

Martin said he disagreed with that opinion, but state law wasn't clear on the matter and the mayor could appeal the decision to the circuit court, delaying the impeachment process, so he recommended removing the clause to speed the process.

The council voted 6-1 to replace the original resolution and bill of impeachment with Martin's substitute, with council members Terri Heckmaster, Dustin Edge, Tom Barlow, Tiffany Cossey, Jana Schramm and Derek Peterson voting yes and Chris Taylor voting no.

Council member Lori Leece was absent.

The vote to approve the new resolution and the bill of impeachment also passed 6-1.

That's when Rife's attorney, Christopher A. Thornton, with the Aegis Law Firm based in St. Louis, stood and announced the mayor's veto.

Thornton said Rife was basing his veto on Section 4.7 of the Carthage City Charter allowing the mayor to veto any resolution or order of the council "which calls for or contemplates the expenditure of revenues of the city."

That section says the veto is binding unless the council in "a subsequent session thereof, general or special, shall pass said resolution," by a three-quarters majority of the council. Thornton said that means the council needs eight votes to override the mayor's veto.