Strasburg mess may get messier

March 13, 2014 

John Beaudoin

FILE PHOTO

There are two sides to every story, in every town.

Even Strasburg, Missouri.

Unfortunately, this story may read like the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books where you skipped around to different pages based on which direction you wanted the story to take.

There’s a lot of "he said, he said" in this mess.

But where there is smoke, there usually is fire.

This isn’t the first time I have seen city employees fired in small towns for, seemingly, no cause whatsoever.

Sometimes raw politics and personal vendettas rule the day in these tiny communities. And without a lot of media to shine the light on misconduct or bad behavior (see the old days of Greenwood as an example) things can quickly get out of hand.

The quick version is this: Strasburg Police Chief Aaron Roberts was called in and “fired” by members of the city council during a closed meeting recently. The council also voted to move a current officer into that role.

Problem is, they broke Missouri law in doing so.

The state law that should have protected Roberts from such a gross miscarriage of policy took effect Aug. 28, 2013. Among legal aspects, Roberts should have been given 10-days notice before such a meeting.

Not only that, the law requires that a two-thirds vote is required to terminate a police chief in good standing.

Strasburg Mayor Merle Gates might want to check his math on this one. He was three of five votes to oust Roberts. That’s only 60 percent, Mayor Gates.

Of course, his son was one of the other two votes, which leads to an entirely different host of ethical issues altogether.

Roberts needs to fight this firing and fight hard.

The law in Missouri was specifically put into place so squabbles between mayors and chiefs didn’t lead to unjust firings.

At first blush, the situation in Strasburg seems to feature just that scenario.

Unless the council can prove misconduct, and I am talking far beyond the flimsy allegations presented at the closed session, or a felony committed, their vote on Roberts holds no weight.

In fact, that vote calls into question the judgment of Gates, his son Mike and fellow council member Jack Ewing.

No city in Missouri is too big or too small to be above responsibility at the council level. Let’s hope the citizens of Strasburg demand just that as the April 8 election approaches.

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