BLAND — A confrontation at the Bland city meeting on Nov. 8 between Mayor Lee Medlock, Park Board President Leslie Cronin and board members resulted in both groups agreeing to try harder to …
BLAND — A confrontation at the Bland city meeting on Nov. 8 between Mayor Lee Medlock, Park Board President Leslie Cronin and board members resulted in both groups agreeing to try harder to communicate in the future.
During the Bland Park Board’s turn to present at the meeting, Cronin began by asking if there was someone on the board of aldermen who had an issue with her.
“I want to ask if there is anything anyone here needed to say to me or question me about personally? Anything that was brought up at the last meeting that I need to be concerned about?” Cronin asked.
Mayor Lee Medlock asked what they would need to ask about, and Cronin said she was told that the board of aldermen didn’t want her to serve anymore because of some outstanding taxes. Medlock asked if they needed to discuss that at the meeting. Several in attendance said yes.
“It was in the paper (that Cronin was behind on taxes),” Medlock began. “It says in the ordinance that if taxes are not paid or whatever that you can’t serve on a board.”
Cronin said she contacted the Missouri Municipal League (MML) to ask that same question.
“They said that is for elected officials only,” Cronin said. “They told me if you guys want to get me off the board you would have to get an attorney and take me to court to get me off the board. That is where we are at right now.”
Medlock said they didn’t need to get an attorney to get anyone off the board. The mayor and aldermen appoint the park board and serve with the board’s permission.
“We are not picking on any individual and we didn’t look at anybody,” Medlock said. “We seen it in the paper.”
Cronin said she didn’t believe it.
“Lee, you have had an issue with me for quite a while, and there are many, many issues here,” Cronin said. “What have I done that has been so bad for the city? I feel like I have done quite a bit for the park. I have been on the board for a few years now and have done a lot — all nothing but positive things for that park.”
Medlock said he called MML and was told that “be’ins your taxes was paid when you was appointed on the park board, you was alright. But since you was appointed by the city council, to decide whether we wanted somebody (to look into it).”
Cronin said her unpaid taxes didn’t matter.
“Yes, it does,” the mayor argued. “Were you two years behind on your taxes?”
Cronin said she was, but her bank paid them. She insisted though that MML told her that day that the taxes didn’t matter and Medlock said they told him it did.
“Then you can take me to court because that is what she told me to tell you,” Cronin said.
Medlock said it was brought to their attention because it isn’t fair to anyone else who may want to serve in the position.
“Nobody else wants this position,” Cronin said. “Because of this! Because of dealing with you! You have run so many people off of this park board it’s unreal.”
Medlock said he hasn’t and asked how many people were on the board. Cronin said five. He asked how many they had before, and Cronin said none, that the people Medlock appointed would leave.
“We are asking you when you have your meetings to run them the way you are supposed to do,” Medlock said.
Leslie said they do run them the way they are supposed to.
Medlock said there have been issues with the minutes and Alderman Diana Mayfield said she has asked that the minutes be presented in a certain way. Allie Nielsen-Christopher said that the lady who takes their minutes is new and is learning. Mayfield said they are working to get them straightened out and she hasn’t seen the new minutes yet.
“It’s not what you wrote in the minutes, it’s how you are conducting your meetings,” Medlock said. “I can’t make a motion and neither can you. And (the president) can’t vote unless there is a tie.”
Cronin apologized and said she didn’t understand or got mixed up.
Mayfield also asked them about a missing check and said their treasurer’s report should be printed off. She asked about two checks that were mailed and never cleared the bank.
“You need to follow up,” Mayfield said. “We don’t want late fees and don’t want people saying Bland Park Board doesn’t pay their bills. You have to follow the Sunshine Laws, you have to be transparent with minutes, and all the money that goes into the park board and comes out of the park board.”
Nielsen-Christopher asked why everything has to be mentioned after the fact.
“We really are trying, but if we don’t have somebody there that knows as well as you guys do, cause we are all learning together. We are asking for help there that we can catch those things as they happen instead of after the fact,” Nielsen-Christopher said.
Medlock said he isn’t trying to get rid of anybody, but for the last two or three meetings, no one from the park board has been present.
Cronin has a newborn and had her baby daughter at the meeting.
“I have a newborn, it has been very hectic,” Cronin said.
Medlock said they only need one person to represent the park board and nobody was there.
“If you are not here to represent the park board, then how are we going to communicate?” Medlock asked.
Nielsen-Christoper said she understands, but they are frustrated.
“It seems like no matter what we try to do or the activities we try to do, there is always something wrong with it,” Nielsen-Christopher said. “I get that we have to follow certain Sunshine Laws but it always feels like it’s after the fact. It would just be nice to feel like you guys want to help us versus telling us what is wrong.”
Mayfield said they have had good meetings and told the park board members they are doing a good job. However, they need to be transparent about their actions, financials, votes, and minutes.
“There is concern out there that money is not being accounted for correctly and that is why I requested a cash register,” Mayfield said. “You need a cash register so that you can tally everything that is in that cash register and that the money goes to the bank. Right now you have no tracking for that money.”
“We haven’t the last 20 years there has been a park board,” Nielsen-Christopher countered.
“And it’s always been a problem,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield said there are ways to fix it, but they have to be accountable. She told the park board it is always easy to ask questions.
“It’s always easy to communicate a little bit better too,” Cronin said. “Me and Jess went up to clean the bathrooms a few weeks ago and the gates are locked at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. We called Jason and asked ‘what’s up?’ and he said ‘oh, yeah, we are starting to lock up the gates in the afternoon.”
Cronin asked why that is, at p.m. on a nice day, when people are out, that the gates would be locked? The gates are still being locked at 6-7 p.m., Cronin said. City employees said they don’t lock the gates until 9 or 10 p.m.
“It’s posted at the park that the park closes at 10:30 p.m., so if you are locking the gates before that, you are in violation of Sunshine Law,” Cronin said. “It’s posted that it’s open until 10:30 p.m.
Mayfield said there are summer and winter hours, and Cronin said the park closes at 9:30 p.m. during the winter.
“It would just be nice to know what’s the gates locked for,” Cronin said.
Medlock said they would have known had they been at the meetings.
“Come to more park board meetings and you guys will be more involved in park board things,” Nielsen-Christopher argued. “It’s the same thing. It’s hard to constantly call you guys and email you every five seconds when we don’t get the same thing. It’s a small town. Instead, what happens is I have somebody who says ‘I ran into Lee up at the gas station and he said this, this and this’ and the park board doesn’t know. Or Joe has to relay it and things get construed.”
Nielsen-Christopher asked the board to show that they want to help. She said Mayfield is the only board member that has helped them with events at the park and the community has asked why.
“Nobody volunteers to help or shows up to do anything,” Cronin said. “We have limited members. It is a small town and small boards and we have to show the town we can all work together.”
Jim Krause told Nielsen-Christopher that they could have a group text to update about meetings or share information. They may not discuss business.
Cronin asked the mayor why he doesn’t share information when he notices things at the park that may be wrong. Medlock said he shared the information with Public Works Director Jason Lewis. Lewis said it looked like it had been open a while.
“If it’s not a big deal, why are we locking the gates,” Cronin asked.
“To keep people out,” Medlock said. “There is a curfew.”
Alderman Mark Ferran spoke.
“It’s great that you all came in here tonight,” Ferran said. “We are all on the same team. We want to see the community fixed up and want to see the city unified. I am glad you came in tonight and that you didn’t just walk away. You have been on the board this long and you wouldn’t be if you didn’t care about the community.”
Cronin said they do care and they are finally getting the community back involved in things.
“I just don’t want anyone to get run off over silly miscommunication or whatever or personal reasons,” she said. “Set that aside. I am tired of it. I really just want to do my part, you guys do your part. Do it together and be cordial and decent. Stop nitpicking and making us feel like what we are doing isn’t good enough.”
Medlock said he is not picking on anyone.
“I do have the power, the authority to remove anybody off the park board. If I wanted to pick on somebody I would have done so,” Medlock said.
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