Circuit Clerk Amy Bell will not get to keep her job in Cass County, after all.
In exchange, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is dropping a civil ouster suit and a misdemeanor criminal case alleging she failed to perform her duties.
Bell was suspended from her job last August by Cass County Circuit Judge William Collins after he said she a hired a close friend to oversee three special projects involving the transfer of paper records into an electronic format. The work from those projects was never completed.
In response, Koster filed a civil petition and misdemeanor charges against Bell last fall.
A settlement in court this week on the civil petition resulted in Bell resigning from her office as the Cass Clerk circuit clerk in addition to having to file a notice of withdrawal of candidacy from the August Primary election.
The Cass County Democrat Missourian reached out to Bell for a statement. In part, she said:
“While I enjoyed my service to Cass County for the first two years of my term, beginning in January of 2013 two particular members of the judiciary began making it clear that it was their desire to force me out of office. Initially, they attempted to bully me into voluntarily resigning. Failing this, in August of 2013 they threatened to file criminal charges and a petition of Quo Warranto against me unless I immediately resigned from office. When I refused, the aforementioned petition and criminal misdemeanor in office cases were filed. I was subsequently suspended from my elected office with full pay and benefits. Immediately following this suspension, a judge in the 17th circuit made several misleading and inaccurate statements to the press, accusing me of numerous actions of malfeasance. It was ultimately determined that no evidence pertaining to these allegations existed and therefore, they were not included in the Quo Warranto petition.”
Koster became involved in Bell's case when his office was appointed as a special prosecutor by Collins. He said that Bell failed to pay the circuit court's bills on time; failed to stop payment or void undeliverable checks; failed to adequately document all of the court's bank accounts; and failed to prepare necessary paperwork to file an insurance claim regarding funds allegedly stolen by a deputy clerk.
Koster and Bell reached the settlement July 1 following a trial held in Lafayette County on a change of venue case.
Bell filed her withdrawal notice this week after she had previously filed for reelection in the spring despite the unresolved legal issue as her current term was nearing expiration.
County Clerk Janet Burlingame of the Cass County Election Authority confirmed July 2 that Bell’s name will not appear on the August Primary ballot, leaving the seat open to opponent Kim York, a Republican from Raymore.
York’s name will now be on both the August and November ballots unopposed.
Bell's statement on the deal made between she and the state went on to read: "Although I will no longer continue to perform the duties of the Circuit Clerk, I will continue as an employee of the courts with full pay and benefits until the end of my term of office on Dec. 31, 2014. While I continue to adamantly deny the allegations presented in the Quo Warranto and the misdemeanor charge, I agreed to withdraw my name from the ballot in the upcoming primary election. I believe I would have easily prevailed in these cases upon presentation of my defense to the courts. However, given the toxic environment created by two particular members of the judiciary, I am no longer willing to subject myself and my family to four more years of working in this unhealthy atmosphere."
As part of the dismissal of the case, signed by Circuit Judge Dennis Rolf, Bell will technically remain an employee of the State of Missouri with salary and benefits through the remainder of her term, ending Dec. 31.
"I am saddened that the actions of individual members of our judiciary will have cause the citizens of Cass County to bear the expense of employing both a Circuit Clerk and “acting” Circuit Clerk, for over 16 months," Bell's statement continued. "Nonetheless, I am proud of the service I gave to those who elected me to office. The citizens of Cass County deserve justice with dignity and respect. It is my sincerest hope that the resolution of this matter will become a catalyst for restoring integrity to our local courts.”