Councilman Dabouze Antoine
FOREST PARK — Mayor David Lockhart exercised his veto powers in Forest Park on Monday evening.
Lockhart read aloud from the veto that he presented to City Clerk Mike Blandenburg. He alleged that the process to nominate members to the Urban Redevelopment Agency was questioned by councilman Dabouse Antoine, forcing the council to repeat its actions from a Jan. 27 special-called meeting.
“He was instrumental in delaying, impeding the nominating process,” Lockhart said.
Council met last Monday to adopt the resolution to form and staff the URA, which will work to authorize bonds, get loans, lines of credit and buy and sell property — everything that needs to be done to finalize the deal with the Army to buy Gillem, a former Army base.
The votes it took to get five residents named to the URA did not go smoothly and council members apologized to the audience. Specifically, Antoine’s attempt to “nominate” Robbin Plummer was rebuffed by Lockhart when he used the word “recommend.”
Monday night’s regular meeting was just as contentious.
Apparently, none of the votes were “legal,” said Councilwoman Latresa Akins, and the issue was again brought before the board. Not so, Lockhart said.
“I disagree that it was illegal or even improper,” he said, but he forged ahead in asking for motions on staffing the URA.
Councilman Tommy Smith’s motion to retain the membership agreed to Jan. 27 failed by a vote of 2-3, with Councilwoman Linda Lord voting with Smith. Akins’ motion to nominate each member again individually was approved, however.
Mayor Pro Tem Maudie McCord’s nomination of Felicia Davis was approved 5-0. Smith again nominated his stepfather, Joe Wimberly, who was approved 4-1, with Akins dissenting.
Antoine again tried to get Plummer on board, stressing and repeating the word “nominate,” to avoid last week’s rejection. It didn’t work. Lockhart took his motion but instead of calling for a second in order to get the nomination to a vote, he called for another motion. Akins again nominated Lois Wright and Lord nominated Don Wright, and both were approved by council members.
Lord then made a motion to appoint City Manager Frank Brandon, saying the commission needs a member from the city. Smith seconded but the vote was 2-3, so Antoine tried again to get Plummer appointed.
When the 3-2 vote approved the appointment, Lockhart invoked his veto powers against it.
Antoine then made a motion to not accept any of the board members already voted on and start over again. The motion failed for a lack of a second.
“If you want to keep your nominations to the URA, I recommend you vote for Frank Brandon,” Lockhart said.
“Is that a threat?” the resident said.
Lord and Smith voted in favor of Brandon but that motion failed 2-3, prompting Lockhart to veto the vote to nominate Lois Wright. Akins and Antoine shook their heads.
“Is it more important for you to have Frank Brandon on board than to have a URA?” Akins said. “It seems more important for you to have your friend on the board.”
Lockhart said her assessment was incorrect.
“This has nothing to do with friendship,” he said. “We’re entrusting to them the power to do the business of Forest Park. They’re all un-elected officials and it’s important to have someone on the board who knows intimately Fort Gillem. We’re trying to attract jobs and new economic activity. As much as I like every person on the list, I know they do not know the day to day goings-on of Fort Gillem actions.”
Lockhart then recommended to council members that they accept the nominations of Lois Wright and Brandon.
“I’m not trying to make a deal,” Akins said.
Smith and Lord voted to accept the pair but the measure failed 2-3.
Akins said there seems to be more than meets the eye concerning the board membership.
“To me, if the URA board was so important, we’d select the people we needed,” she said. “These are all people from Forest Park who’ve been here for years. We’re not holding up the process.”
Lockhart took issue with her declaration.
“Apparently, it’s satisfactory that one member holds up the process for one particular appointment, and that one particular appointment not reach approval,” he said. “We got three of the five so we have a fully-functional URA. The diversity is good and we can move forward with these three.”
The members are Wimberly, Don Wright and Davis.