Ethics Board seated, to hear complaints

FOREST PARK — A new Ethics Board seated Thursday won’t have to wait long to hear complaints filed against mayor and city council.

The board voted Pat Cooper to serve as chair and Lois Wright vice-chair of the five-member advisory council. City Attorney Michael Williams guided the five through the city’s ethics code and what to expect when hearing complaints.

They’ll get their first chance Wednesday when they will discuss two complaints filed during the summer by retired Public Works Director Mike Gippert. Williams gave them a copy of the complaints, responses and his preliminary analysis of the complaints.

He cautioned them to not discuss the matters outside of the meetings.

“You need to do your level best to not discuss board business with anyone out in the community,” Williams said. “This is a small community. You could be at the store, someone may ask what’s going on with the mayor or council and the next thing you know, you’ve said more than you should. You should consider yourself a judge for this purpose.”

Members seemed concerned about being able to discuss matters behind closed doors.

“Will we be able to talk about these complaints in executive session?” Wright said. “It seems like we ought to be able to discuss it not out in the open.”

Williams told members that the meetings are open to the public and executive sessions are called for limited purposes.

Gippert filed the first complaint in July against Mayor David Lockhart alleging he violated the city’s charter by issuing orders to employees. One of the charges alleges Lockhart ordered then-City Manager John Parker to fire Gippert.

“(Lockhart) told Mr. Parker that he did not want me to draw another paycheck from the city,” stated the complaint.

Gippert alleges in May Lockhart ordered Jan Young, an executive assistant, to have Human Resources Director Christine Terrell advertise for Gippert’s position after he announced his retirement. Gippert alleges the act to be tantamount to usurping the authority of the city manager.

In June, Gippert alleges, Lockhart ordered Management Analyst Angela Redding to have the promotion of Regina Ivey to deputy finance director rescinded by Terrell and for Terrell to readvertise the position. Gippert said Ivey was promoted by City Clerk and Finance Director Mike Blandenburg, a move approved by Parker.

In August, Gippert filed a second complaint, naming Lockhart and council members Tommy Smith, Maudie McCord and Latresa Akins. He alleges they violated city ordinances during a called meeting July 26 by creating the position of assistant city manager by adoption of a resolution rather than by ordinance.

Gippert also said the four violated other portions of the ordinance Aug. 5 in the way they hired an elections superintendent to replace Darnell Moorer. The council voted in July to fire Moorer based on Akins’s assertion that he is “too political” and was publicly critical of Lockhart.

Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord isn’t named because she voted against the proposals.

Williams told the board to read the documents and come back Wednesday to discuss how the complaints should be handled. The documents include responses from Lockhart denying the allegations and asking for a dismissal. Lockhart also wants board member Skip Cain recused from the deliberations because he is Gippert’s landlord. No decision on the request was made Thursday.