Belle alderman argues pro tem appointment, extends public meeting to share personal business

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 7/20/22

BELLE — Unhappy with being overlooked as mayor pro tem on July 11, Belle Alderman Jeanette Struemph extended the city meeting another 15 minutes by discussing personal matters that were not on …

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Belle alderman argues pro tem appointment, extends public meeting to share personal business

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BELLE — Unhappy with being overlooked as mayor pro tem on July 11, Belle Alderman Jeanette Struemph extended the city meeting another 15 minutes by discussing personal matters that were not on the agenda.

As Ward 1 representative and one of the longest consistent members on the Belle Board of Aldermen, Struemph has previously enjoyed the title of Mayor Pro Tem, a position that exercises the mayor’s authority in the case of an absence, disability or vacancy in the office.

“Why was that changed? Why was the Mayor Pro Tem changed?” Struemph asked 47 minutes into the two-and-a-half-hour meeting.

“Because your term was up as Mayor Pro Tem,” Belle Mayor Josh Seaver said. “It’s supposed to change at every election cycle.”

Mayor Pro Tem is named following elections when the board reorganizes. Due to the vacancies of half of the board of aldermen in May and June, Seaver waited to reorganize the board until it was completed at the June meeting. Alderman Kayla Bray was appointed in June and Daryl White was named Mayor Pro Tem when the board reorganized.

Struemph said former mayor Steve Vogt was not there to verify her information, although he was in the crowd and later acknowledged that he traditionally used that reasoning as mayor to nominate his pro tem. However, it is not a law.

“Normally it’s the one who has been there the longest and has the most experience in the council,” Struemph insisted. “That’s why I was appointed on there by Steve.”

She asked Vogt, “The Mayor Pro Tem is the person who has the length of time on here and has achieved more knowledge.”

Vogt said that is the way he ran things.

Seaver said ok. Alderman Kayla Bray asked if it has to change every election cycle. White said it is in the book, though it does not give a term to be served.

“It doesn’t say anything about seniority or anything like that,” White said.

Seaver said it is the first time he has ever heard that and Struemph insisted it has been a general rule for years.

Seaver proceeded to change names on the city accounts by asking for motions to remove Struemph’s name and add White’s, as well as removing former employees’ names from accounts and adding the names of new employees.

Struemph waited for the end of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting after the last “new business” item and derailed from the meeting’s agenda to say she wanted to share some things.

“I have some things to talk about,” Struemph began after Seaver said that was the last item under “new business.”

She continued on without waiting to discuss the June 14 meeting when she nominated her brother-in-law James “Pud” Mitchell to fill the Ward 2 alderman seat vacated by Ken Stanfield.

“First of all I called MML about this nepotism thing,” she said. “I have some handouts for everybody —.”

Seaver interrupted, “Hang, hang on, Jeanette, we did not add this to the agenda. So — I don’t know. I feel like maybe we should have added this to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting,” Seaver paused, uncertain. “But, if you’d like to discuss it, we will go ahead —.”

“Well,” Struemph interrupted. “I have a few things to discuss and I just waited until everything else was managed before I decided to talk about it. I am representing the city of Belle. I think that belongs to your reputation and I am not trying to pinpoint any one person or any one thing. So what I talk about tonight is not — don’t take a lot of it personally. It is coming from the citizens of Belle, Missouri.

“The citizens in this town are the owners in this town. We just try to keep the balance. That is our job here,” Struemph continued. “So as a representative on this council I feel like these things should be talked about and brought to life. The first one is the nepotism.”

Struemph presented a chart.

“There was something brought up about a brother-in-law. He is not even listed. It doesn’t even go there. He is no blood relative. I don’t want it put out there to the city like I know it was in the paper.

“I don’t normally read the articles in the paper, but I know — I don’t want to be — It looked like I had done something undermined me because I have not.”

She continued to claim that her statements were not personal against anyone.

“I know that one was invited and one was not on the day that the person that was elected or chosen — one was here and one was not,” Struemph said. “I don’t feel like that was rightfully done. To me it is discriminating one against the other. It was not like doing a job application. It was like appointing somebody.”

Struemph went on to say that both Ward 2 positions will be on the April 2023 ballot, which is the city’s next election cycle.

“I have gotten a lot, a lot of flack from the people in this town on doing the job to clean this town up,” she said. “It’s becoming a disaster. No one is attracted here anymore. No one wants to be in on this mess that is falling down amongst us. I had taken it upon myself. I was going to work on this issue with a couple of committee members and I was told ‘we’ll see about it.’ That was all I ever got. I don’t think that was something — when someone is volunteering to do something, that you take on as a let-it go.  It is pretty important to this town. If we don’t keep up the reputation of our town, then why would anybody be attracted to even come here.”

Struemph said attracting a business to the city to pay taxes dollars in the city would support the town.

“I just feel like we should bring these things to light,” she continued. “It’s the people. It’s the people’s choice to talk about this. There is a lot of recessions not to come here and express because they feel like there is a recourse. Do I feel like there is a recourse? Yes. I brought up a very valid, legal thing at a public meeting about the park and I was told I have been railroaded because of my actions. My actions were legal, I had done my homework, and I knew that a lawyer had done his homework. I just feel like things have changed since I spoke up and spoke for the people of this town. That’s why we can’t get anybody to come here and speak about issues of the town, because they feel like there will be something come about that will be a recourse for them.”

Aldermen and citizens were quiet as she spoke, some looked confused.

“There is another — the town is very upset,” Struemph said. “This is a very good community. We should do things to keep this community pulled together. Not pull it apart. There is another issue that has become a rumor and a rumor that has not went away.”

Seaver spoke.

“Now wait a minute, if you are going where I think you are going you need to stop now,” Seaver said.

Struemph asked why.

“Because it does nothing but slandarize (SIC) my name,” Seaver said.

Struemph said, “I am not slandering your name. I think things should be brought to light in this town.”

Seaver responded, “Well, I am going to shut ya down, Jeanette, because none of this is on the agenda, so we’re done. You’re done.”

Struemph said she knew exactly what would happen.

“If we don’t have any other legitimate business for this session, do we have a motion to close open session and move to closed session?” Seaver asked.

Belinda Branson was sitting in the audience and said she was interested in what Struemph had to say.

“The whole town is,” Struemph said. “That’s why I am here to say that. It’s entitled. We crucified a man in this room one time for a whole lot less.”

Seaver said they were done with that.

“Do we have a motion to adjourn this meeting and move into closed session?” Seaver asked.

Alderman Daryl White made the motion. Alderman Kayla Bray seconded and a roll call vote of 4-0 adjourned the meeting.

Branson asked Struemph again to share the rumor with her. Seaver said they have adjourned the open meeting and would take a 10-minute recess before they come back.

The board went into closed session to discuss personnel.

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