Monday, August 24, 2015
Joplin City Council votes 8-1 to hold hearing on Woolston ethics violations
Woolston cast the only dissenting vote.
Councilman Ben Rosenberg made the motion for the hearing, quickly seconded by Bill Scearce. At the conclusion of a special meeting in which the city's tax levy hearing was held and a discussion was held with Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian concerning the city's contract with the Chamber, Rosenberg read a lengthy list of charges against Woolston, accusing him of "tarnishing the reputation of this body," with his actions.
Rosenberg noted the allegations, included both in the state audit and in the Loraine Report, that Woolston had used insider knowledge he obtained as a member of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team (CART) to benefit Joplin businessman Charlie Kuehn of Four State Homes. Though Woolston has claimed from the beginning that he only accepted one commission from the sale of property in the area of 20th and Connecticut, Rosenberg noted that he had benefited from becoming the exclusive real estate agent handling deals with Four State Homes, "a significant financial incentive."
Rosenberg also cited Woolston's involvement with the Hope Valley TIF, which he in voted in favor of without disclosing that he was a business partner of developer Kevin Steele, who was proposing the TIF. Woolston also voted for the TIF, instead of abstaining.
Woolston and Kuehn are also both involved in the South Main TIF, which was approved by the council during its August 17 meeting.
Rosenberg also cited another allegation that was made in the Loraine Report, not by Loraine, but by Woolston himself, when he conceded that he had appeared before Planning and Zoning, as a private citizen, not as mayor, to aid with Kuehn's projects.
Rosenberg also alleged that Woolston had violated the code of ethics in the City Charter when he shared confidential information about the development of the 20th and Connecticut area with Kuehn.
Woolston said, "I have done nothing wrong." He asked that the council reject the hearing so that the citizens of Joplin could "move past this."
He quickly pivoted from that thought, though, and after saying he wanted it all to be over with, armed with materials prepared by his lawyer, Woolston gave a lengthy timeline for how the process should be held, which would culminate in a hearing February 1, 2016 or more than five months from now.
With extra appeals, Woolston's plan would last through April 2016.
Councilman Ryan Stanley said he was not sure one week would be enough time for Woolston to prepare, but he did not like the idea of waiting until February 1.
Councilman Gary Shaw said he would vote for the August 31 hearing, because he wanted to hear facts and not "opinions" like those he says were included in the state audit report.
If the council finds that Woolston violated the ethics code, he could be automatically removed from office.
Want to find more about Councilman Mike Woolston's actions before next Monday's hearing. Woolston is prominently featured in my book, Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado. A signing will be held this Saturday, August 29, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Always Buying Books in Joplin. The book is available locally at Always Buying Books, Changing Hands Book Shoppe, and The Book Guy in Joplin, Pat's Books in Carthage, and Cato's Connection in Lamar, as well as online in e-book and paperback formats at Amazon.com