SB40 board to discuss petition over county's decision

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

After the Cape Girardeau County Commission went against a recommendation by the Senate Bill 40 Board, friction continues to emerge between the two bodies.

During a brief commission meeting Monday, 2nd District Commissioner Jay Purcell expressed concern about recent actions involving the board.

"It's got a lot of people upset, including myself," he said. The board will meet at 7 p.m. today at VIP Industries in Fruitland. Purcell said the meeting will include a discussion about starting a petition against the commission's decision.

During a meeting last week, Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones and 1st District Commissioner Paul Koeper went against the board's recommendation to fill a vacancy. They chose Ruth Ann Dickerson to fill an opening created by the resignation of Ruth Arnsberry.

The board, which meets monthly, distributes special tax levies passed to benefit people with developmental disabilities. It has been holding extra meetings to address vacancies and contract issues, Purcell said.

Purcell brought up today's meeting during the Monday commission meeting and extended an invitation to Koeper. Koeper said he had another meeting to attend.

"I'm not going just to be hammered on," Koeper said.

Purcell said SB40 board members asked him to start attending the commission meetings because they were concerned about the actions of the other commissioners.

"They felt like they were being ignored," he said, in an interview.

The board is also sorting out issues with the lease of a property in Jackson. Questions arose about whether the county owns the VIP Industries facilities and land in the county.

Recently, one of the board members stepped down. Donald Hanscom submitted a letter of resignation dated June 3, the day the commission appointed Dickerson to the board.

"This wasn't an easy decision but after what happen at the Commissioners meeting, inside and outside, has solidified my decision," he wrote. "It's with mixed emotions that I submit this request."

When asked to clarify his reasons for stepping down, Hanscom cited health reasons. In the letter, he said he had served on the board since 1987.

There were four applicants for Arnsberry's position. Koeper said he chose the person he felt was best for the job. Dickerson is a member of Cape County Association for the Retarded. Koeper had said she would resign, if chosen, to avoid conflict of interest.

"We are an outside independent source," he said in an interview.

Making appointments to the board is the commission's responsibility, not the board's, Koeper said. Once appointments are made, the board conducts its business independently and without direction from the commission, he said.

"I did my job," he said. "I did what I thought was right. I have a lot of things to do in the county. Appointing people to these boards is one thing out of several."

As the newest member of the commission, Koeper said he is still learning about some components of the county. Because of the recent issues with the SB40 Board, he said he will take a closer look at its work.

"I will start looking at these responsibilities a lot closer," he said.

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