Carthage resident calls for resignations of 2 council members

May 15—CARTHAGE, Mo. — A former member of the Carthage City Council showed up at Tuesday's City Council meeting calling for the resignations of Ward 5 council member Tiffany Cossey and newly elected council member Jana Schramm.

"While you may have a few handful of people that are supporting you, you do not have the majority of the city and you never will. We, the citizens of Carthage, stand with Mayor Rife, we stand with Mr. Dagnan," said T.J. Teed, referring to Mayor Dan Rife and City Administrator Greg Dagnan. "We stand with each department head and all city employees."

He said Cossey has, over the last month, "bullied and manipulated" her way through council meetings, and belittled Rife, Dagnan and city staff. Reed also alleged violations of city policies and the city charter, as well as the Missouri Sunshine Law, which governs open meetings and open records.

He also accused Schramm of assisting Cossey in bullying and belittling city staff and the administration.

"It is evident that you have had an agenda in place, and you continue to try to bend the rules to see what you want," he said. "You claimed that everyone knew your intentions when you ran for this office. However, you only spoke of transparency, and no campaign material listed this agenda."

There has been an attempt since the April 2 election to impeach Rife and remove Dagnan. However, neither topic came up at Tuesday's meeting except for a vote to table discussion of hiring a law firm to provide guidance on those issues.

Resident Bill Sheerer said he believes some council members have treated the mayor and city administrator over the past few months with a lack of respect.

"My question — why do we have a city code of ethics for elected office officials if they're not going to be enforced?" Sheerer asked. "I was at the Friday special meeting, and a certain council member violated at least three of these codes, declaration and policy. ...

"The public has a right to expect that each officers' conduct will tend to preserve public confidence and respect for the government of the city of Carthage. It is important that the mayor, each member of the City Council and the appointed officials of the city of Carthage will uniformly treat all citizens with courtesy, impartiality, fairness and equality under the law and avoid both actual and potential conflict between their private self-interest and the public interest. Certain members of this council cannot even treat our mayor or administration or other council members with respect, let alone the majority of the public."

A group of residents looking into possibly starting a recall effort against Cossey in Ward 5 met for the first time earlier this week to discuss the process and rules for gathering petitions and meeting the requirements for a recall effort.

Cossey did not answer a phone call seeking comment on the meeting or the recall effort.

Schramm, who also represents Ward 5 on the council, said she had no knowledge of the recall effort and would not comment on it.

She also said she was disappointed in what was said at Tuesday's meeting.

"I'll leave the lines of communication between me and T.J. Teed open, but what he said last night was 180 degrees different from what he was calling me about in the past," she said. "Why didn't he reach out to me and discuss this? As for asking me to resign, I was shocked. I do not want to be hateful and we've got to get through this in a professional manner, so I'll leave all lines of communication open."

On April 9, immediately after the winners of the April 2 municipal election were sworn into office, one of their first actions was an attempt to dismantle the existing Carthage city administration by firing Dagnan and impeaching Rife. That was halted when provisions of the city charter were raised by then-City Attorney Nate Dally, who said the mayor has to agree with the council to fire a city official. New members also voted to suspend Dagnan, but Rife stopped that effort too, saying only the mayor has the authority to suspend a city official.

The council also returned a 7-2 vote of no confidence in the mayor.

Cossey maintains that Dagnan has been fired and no longer works for the city, and last week wanted police to remove him from his city administrator's chair and into the audience, but nothing came of it.

Before the April 2 elections, some Carthage residents had made complaints to the Missouri attorney general's office and to the state auditor's office claiming the mayor had violated the Missouri Open Meetings and Open Records Act, and improperly hired Dagnan first as assistant city administrator then as city administrator, as well as other complaints. The attorney general's response came back in March, and the response from the state auditor came back soon afterward. In both cases, the state offices said they had completed their investigations and that no further action was warranted.

Cossey and others on the council have said they they do not trust either Rife or Dagnan.

Tornado cleanup

Residents and officials also talked about the cleanup after the severe storm May 6 that brought an EF1 tornado to the west side of Carthage and damaging straight-line winds to much of the rest of town.

The storm has shut down the Carthage Municipal Park golf course for several days and destroyed fencing and electronic locks on a dog park that was scheduled to be finished and opened in the coming days. It also knocked down a number of trees in Central Park and damaged dozens of homes in the community.

Jackie Boyer, president of the Kellogg Lake Advisory Board, said parks and recreation Director Abi Almandinger had told them they might need to cancel or postpone the 24th annual Kids Fishing Day, which is scheduled for Saturday, June 8.

Almandinger told the council during department head reports that the damage was not as severe at Kellogg Lake as it was at other parks and the city was prioritizing helping residents as much as they could and cleaning up the golf course, which was losing money every day it was closed.

"In the initial couple of days after the tornado I did tell Ms. Boyer that we might have to consider canceling or postponing Kids Fishing Day," Almandinger said. "That was the middle of last week. We're sitting at 25 days before this event, more than three weeks out, and we can now see it will be no problem. Our maintenance staff cleared the roads finally this morning at Kellogg Lake Park and we opened up most of the park. The river is still shut down. It's very dangerous to go down there, so please do not try to do that."

Jason Martin, assistant fire chief, said the city still had a list of about 20 homes where owners needed help cleaning up trees and limbs and other damage.

Martin said volunteer groups who come to the city are being asked to help those people first.