Cardwell aldermen meet, impeach mayor

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

CARDWELL, Mo. -- In an emotionally charged meeting this week, the Cardwell Board of Aldermen decided to impeach the city's mayor by a 3-1 vote.

More than 100 people packed into city hall Monday where spectators repeatedly interrupted aldermen with shouting questions and comments.

Aldermen were sitting as a board of impeachment in the special meeting to hear an attorney hired by some board members to present evidence Mayor David Bishop had violated state law and should be removed from office.

Shawn Young, an attorney from Portageville, Mo., informed the gathering he had been employed as special counsel to prosecute the impeachment hearing but declined to say who had hired him.

Young cited several items in which Bishop had violated his oath of office and state law:

  • During an April 9 executive session the board voted to dismiss Ricky Sullivan as a city employee and the mayor allegedly allowed Sullivan to work three additional days after being told to dismiss him.

  • The board moved another employee, Billy Hopper, from full-time to part-time or on an as-needed basis. Bishop was accused of allowing Hopper to continue working.

  • On April 29 Bishop is accused of telling the water commissioner to restore water service to a family after the board had ordered it shut off because of a delinquent bill.

  • On April 16 Bishop was accused of signing a quit-claim deed transferring a city-owned building to Deborah Harper without the board's authorization.

    "When Mayor David Bishop executed this deed, dated April 16, 2002, he committed gross misconduct in office because he did not have the authority of the governing body of this city," Young said. "The mayor clearly did not uphold the wishes or desire of the Board of Aldermen."

    Young said the board, in order to remove an elected official from office, does not require any type of willful action, intent, or fraud. It is required only to show cause, which is defined a sufficient reason.

    He declared the mayor on four separate occasions failed to follow directives of the Board of Aldermen in direct contravention of his oath of office and of state law.

    Bishop then explained his actions, interrupted by the audience, which broke into spontaneous applause and cheers.

    With order restored, Bishop said that when the board fired the city clerk, Belinda Kemmett, it called her in and explained why it was dismissing her.

    But the board members would not call Sullivan in to explain his dismissal "because they said he was mean, they didn't want to tell him," Bishop said. Instead the board left it to him to inform Sullivan of the board's action, which he said, he did.

    In the case of his son-in-law, Billy Hopper, Bishop said the city water commissioner, Greg Masterson, had said he needed him about every day.

    "I told him as long as you need him, you go ahead and tell him to keep working," Bishop said.

    Masterson interrupted, "I could use two or three every day."

    Bishop said he had ordered water service restored to a family with children whose water service had been ordered shut off by the board because of a delinquent bill. He said the woman had moved out of town and then moved back, with water service being put in her boyfriend's name. Bishop said a former mayor had told the couple as long as they paid something on the old bill, it would be all right.

    As for his action in signing a deed for city property, Bishop said that a previous Board of Aldermen, of which he was a member, had on Dec. 19, 1998, agreed to donate the vacant building to Harper. If Harper was ever to sell the building at any time she was to give the city $3,500.

    "Why can't this board right here, honor what that board did?" Larry Wilson, a local resident, demanded from the audience. The crowd again broke into applause and cheers, but the question went unanswered when order was restored.

    Former alderman Dan Muse spoke in corroboration of Bishop's statement regarding the city-owned building. "The board voted to give that building to her," he said. "The reason the deed wasn't executed at the time was the company that held the deed could not give us a legal, valid deed. The deed just came to Cardwell after this kangaroo election here."

    The city's attorney, Terry McVey, cautioned the board: "If you impeach and you are wrong, that could subject you to a lawsuit for violation of due process."

    The aldermen, as expected, voted 3 to 1 to impeach Bishop.

    The aldermen are expected to appoint an interim mayor who will serve until a new mayor can be elected next April.

    Residents said they are gathering signatures on a petition asking the state attorney general to come to Cardwell and conduct an investigation of the board.

    Bishop says he plans to appeal the board action and file a lawsuit against board members who voted to impeach him.

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