Scott City council hires former SEMO public safety director as city administrator

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Doug Richards

A former Southeast Missouri State University official has been hired as city administrator for Scott City.

The council last week hired James Douglas Richards after former West Park Mall operations manager Mike Crowden turned down the job, city officials said.

Richards formerly served as director of the university's public safety department.

"I am looking forward to it," Richards said Tuesday of his new job. "I want to contribute to Scott City."

He added, "I see so much potential in Scott City."

Richards said Scott City is poised for industrial, business and residential growth.

"Scott City has an airport. It has rail. It has the interstate. It's got everything," said Richards, who once served on the Cape Girardeau City Council.

Richards and Crowden were the two finalists for the position earlier this fall.

The council last month voted 4-3 to hire Crowden.

Crowden said after he verbally accepted the position, "an opportunity for further expansion arose" with Root + Holler, a Cape Girardeau business he owns. The company supplies hormone- and steroid-free locally raised pork, beef, lamb and goat meat to restaurants, health-food stores, caterers and private consumers.

In an email Tuesday to the Southeast Missourian, Crowden said the business opportunity will require his "full commitment."

Crowden wrote, "Though the timing is unfortunate in regard to the city administrator position, this Root + Holler opportunity is promising and important for the company and my family. I would be remiss not to pursue this opportunity."

The council Nov. 6 in closed session voted to hire Richards. The vote was 7-1, with Councilman Mike Ellison dissenting.

City officials did not make a formal announcement after the meeting. The hiring later was disclosed on the city's website at the end of a brief summary of the council meeting.

Mayor Norman Brant said Richards is "down to earth. He has a lot of experience."

Richards will be accessible to the public, the mayor said Tuesday.

"He is going to be approachable. He will work with the people as much as possible," Brant said.

Richards is scheduled to begin his job as city administrator Dec. 4.

Brant said current city administrator Diann Ulmer plans to stay on through the end of December to help with the transition.

Richards will receive an annual salary of $50,000 plus compensation in lieu of health insurance, Ulmer said. Richards told city officials he has health insurance and does not need the health coverage provided by the city, she said.

Brant said he is glad the position finally is filled.

"I hope we can settle down now and get back into our normal routine," he said. "I think we are in good hands." Richards will be Scott City's third city administrator this year.

Ron Eskew resigned as city administrator in March amid an investigation into allegations of improper use of city funds.

Ulmer, former superintendent of Scott City schools, was hired in July as a part-time administrator. She resigned in August, but was rehired in September to assist the council in the search for a new administrator.

Richards, a former Cape Girardeau police officer, had a 37-year career in law enforcement, including 29 years at the university.

Richards pleaded guilty in June to two amended misdemeanor traffic charges after a special prosecutor dropped a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated.

Missouri State Highway Patrol toxicology tests were negative for alcohol and drugs, Richards said.

"This has been the worst ordeal of my life. I knew I was innocent," he said after appearing in Cape Girardeau County Circuit Court in Jackson. "I feel I was wronged by the whole system."

Richards was fined $150 plus court costs.

The court case stemmed from a Nov. 12, 2015, traffic stop. Charges were filed nearly a year later,

On Nov. 13, 2015, the day after his arrest, university spokeswoman Ann Hayes said Richards had been placed on medical leave, then "resigned for the purpose of retirement."

After the case was resolved earlier this year, Hayes said in an email that "retirement is a personal choice and a personnel matter, and we do not comment on personnel matters."

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