Cape city council revotes to hire judge

Thursday, October 2, 2003

The Cape Girardeau City Council decided to make it official again, voting for a second time in six weeks to hire Teresa Bright-Pearson as municipal judge.

The council action came in a special closed-door meeting Tuesday night. The vote was 6-0 to hire the East Prairie, Mo., lawyer for the part-time, $49,000-a-year job. Councilwoman Marcia Ritter was absent.

"The council just felt as though it would clean up all the issues pertaining to the validity of the appointment," Mayor Jay Knudtson said Wednesday.

The issue has sparked controversy with critics saying the council shouldn't hire an out-of-town lawyer for the city job.

The council in a closed-door meeting on Aug. 18 hired Bright-Pearson as municipal judge even though it violated a residency requirement stipulated in a city law. Under the law, the municipal judge was required to live in Cape Girardeau. The council voted 4-3 to hire the former Cape Girardeau County assistant prosecuting attorney over a Cape Girardeau lawyer who did meet the residency requirement.

On Sept. 15, a divided council voted to scrap the residency requirement despite objections from several Cape Girardeau lawyers. The vote was 5-2 with Ritter and Evelyn Boardman voting against the measure.

The council's vote Tuesday night came with the new ordinance now in effect, Knudtson said. Bright-Pearson began her new job on Wednesday.

The former municipal judge, Kim Price, stepped down to take a job with the Osburn, Hine, Kuntze, Yates and Murphy law firm of Cape Girardeau.

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