Ellisville drops drinking, swearing charges against mayor
By: Diane E. Samson
At its March 6 meeting, the Ellisville City Council dropped several charges against Mayor Adam Paul, including drinking on the job, using profanity, illegally recording closed meetings and failing to control his attorney’s disruptive behavior at a special meeting of the Council on Feb. 18.
The Council also passed an amended resolution that moved Adam Paul’s hearing date to 6 p.m. on March 27. The hearing will determine whether Paul has forfeited the office of mayor.
In addressing the allegations of drinking on the job, Paul’s attorney Chet Pleban on March 7 told McGraw Millhaven during an interview on KTRS (The McGraw Show) that Paul had taken and passed a polygraph test. During the test, Paul was asked whether he had ever drunk alcohol on the job. He responded that he had not, and the examiner determined that he had been truthful.
Pleban said that though the polygraph evidence is not admissible in court, Paul wanted to do what he could to clear his name in the community.
Councilmember Matt Pirrello (District 1) presided over the meeting as mayor pro-tem. When Paul first took office, he appointed Pirrello as mayor pro-tem, so he could fill in for Paul in case he needed to be absent.
Pirrello said while the Council will be looking to appoint an interim mayor soon, perhaps at the next Council meeting, he expressed little interest in the position.
“I’ve done my time as mayor,” Pirrello said. “I’m ready to step back and let other people take over.”
The interim mayor could come from the current Council, but wouldn’t have to.
“It was awkward tonight for me,” Pirrello said, indicating that a lot of people probably didn’t realize that Mayor Paul had appointed him mayor pro-tem to begin with. “I never contemplated being in this situation.”
The Council dropped some of the charges against Paul on the advice of Attorney Keith Cheung, who will serve as prosecutor at Paul’s hearing. City Attorney Paul Martin explained that though the Council may have evidence supporting the charges, they are not impeachable offenses.
“There was no evidence in the charges that the mayor was intoxicated while he was running the meeting, so he felt that was also not an impeachable offense,” said Martin while explaining to the Council the rationale for dropping the charges.
He also advised that the Council remove the charges of Paul recording a closed meeting to use in his defense, because the recording happened after the resolution was drafted. Martin explained it was a timing issue.
The other charge centering on the actions of Paul’s attorney, Lynette Petruska, was dropped, Martin said because the attorney’s actions “could not be fairly imputed” to the mayor.
Paul indicated that while he was glad some charges had been dropped, the damage to his reputation was already done.
“You can’t unring a bell,” said Paul. “It’s terrible what’s been done to me.”
He said that the job of mayor is a part-time job with full-time responsibilities that doesn’t pay the bills. Paul said it has been stressful for his family, who depends on his regular job, where, he said his reputation has been smeared. While the Council uses city money to pay for its attorneys, Paul has to reach into his own pocket to fund his defense.
The next step for Pleban is to gather testimony and complete depositions for the upcoming hearing. Pleban said he is still waiting on the City to issue subpoenas so he can get started.
Pleban said he is going to ask, and that Missouri law requires, that the hearing take place at a forum that will accommodate the public. At the meeting in which the resolution against Paul was introduced, many residents and members of the media were not allowed in the chamber due to fire code restrictions.
Martin said that the Paul’s defense has the right to subpoena and that they are still working on pulling all the documentary evidence together.
While many residents came to speak out for Paul, with some toting freshly printed yard signs reading “Support Mayor Paul,” Pirrello said he has spoken to other residents who support the councilmembers doing their jobs to follow the law of the charter, rather than just dropping the charges against Paul because a few feel that way.
“I think it is serious business and needs to be taken very seriously,” Pirrello said, noting that the councilmembers had taken an oath to follow the charter. “We’re obligated to those laws. We are a nation of laws.”
Resident Elizabeth Schmidt, a supporter of Paul, expressed concern about what the Council will do while Paul is suspended, especially regarding the development of RPA 2, the commercially zoned property next to the Walmart site.
“Everyone is concerned another TIF will be crammed down our throats during Mayor Paul’s suspension,” Schmidt said during the meeting.
The Council will hold a regular meeting 7 p.m. March 20, with Paul’s hearing held the following week at 6 p.m. on March 27.