The Attitude of a Pharisee

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Mayor Jones closed last night’s council meeting with a most unusual piece of new business. She proclaimed herself as upset and disappointed that a colleague had shared “a private personnel matter“ concerning herself with outside individuals, who went on to publish the account. She was “appalled that someone from our team would breach trust in that manner.” She called the disclosure “disheartening and disappointing, not to mention illegal, to share details around conversations of personnel matters.” The mayor has requested that the city manager “investigate the breach, and move forward with corrective actions against those who spearheaded or allowed this.” She specifically demanded that her statement be placed in the minutes of the council meeting, a request which we hope the city clerk will comply with.

As has often been the case since Mayor Jones lost her majority on council, Mayor Jones repeatedly called for unity and teamwork: “Either we are a team, working individually and collectively as a team to serve Ferguson residents, or we are a bunch of people with individual agendas, serving our own purposes.” But in fact, Mayor Jones has always served her own purposes. Her appeal to collegiality, a subject on which she was entirely silent when she controlled a majority, is nothing but a convenient tool of a scoundrel. She has harnessed city government to do favors for her friends, and for her own personal enjoyment. This has been somewhat hindered by her loss of the majority on council, but as her recent effort to nullify downtown Ferguson’s zoning rules to allow a campaign contributor to open an adult daycare clearly showed, she has not given up on these tactics. Her governing has resembled that of the shiesty Elbert Walton Jr. and his conniving and deceptive Unity PAC, and her campaigning and fundraising has borne a suspicious resemblance to their material.

Since we are the only publication that regularly reports on Ferguson city matters, we can only conclude that the mayor referred to us in last night’s rant. And since it is our only recent story on the mayor, whose daily activities are rarely interesting enough to warrant our reporting, we must assume that her vague but angry complaints referred to our account of her bossy demand that the city provide her with a rental car for a junket to Lake of the Ozarks, and to the emails from which it was derived.

The mayor’s angry protest notwithstanding, she misunderstands several important things. First of all, her demand for a rental car is not a personnel matter at all. As an elected official, it would be highly unusual for her conduct to be the subject of a personnel matter, because she’s not an employee. But her request for the use of a city vehicle was in no way a personnel matter, and was therefore a matter of public record. While it may have been uncomfortable to the mayor to have her constituents see her rude, bossy rant, it was not illegal.

Since the mayor apparently skipped the sunshine law section in her mayor’s training manual, we will take the liberty of enlightening her. Everything a public official says is public, unless it is specifically excluded from disclosure. If I send an email to the governor, he is entirely within his rights to forward it to anybody he wants, including the media. Correspondence between elected officials is subject to strict archiving rules, and it can be requested by anybody. Forwarding an email is perfectly lawful, and in some cases, admirable.

As our city’s only investigative media outlet, we have consistently advocated for transparency. We applaud the whistleblowers, the conscientious people who put the public interest over their own security and comfort. We are grateful to have sources throughout city government, and are pleased to report on matters of interest to those residents who have honest government as their top priority. We will continue to do this, so long as our readers have interest.

The mayor holds herself forth as a church lady, so we conclude with a bit of scripture she may find helpful: “There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops.” We know more than a few public officials who conduct themselves accordingly. Mayor Jones would do well to join their ranks.