Thursday, October 02, 2008

Did County Attorney Violate Open Government Laws?

An appellate court will decide whether County Counselor Patricia Redington violated any open-government laws when she settled a lawsuit with Fred Weber Inc. That suit sought to prevent the construction of a trash-transfer station in Oakville.

While the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in July approved Weber's application for a permit to build the trash-transfer station at 5219 Baumgartner Road, a St. Louis County Circuit Court judge granted summary judgment in favor of Weber last October to construct and operate the station.

As a result, Redington then entered into a settlement agreement with Weber to drop all of the county's litigation to stop the facility.The County Council originally had voted 7-0 in 2004 to halt the station's construction due to concerns from the county Department of Health.

In 2005, the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that the county used faulty logic in denying Weber's request for the Oakville trash-transfer station. After Weber petitioned for the station, the County Council adopted an ordinance prohibiting trash-transfer stations within 1,000 feet of churches, residences, schools, child-care centers, nursery schools or nursing homes. Weber's site for the transfer station on Baumgartner Road is within 1,000 feet of Canaan Baptist Church.

Sixth District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, also filed an after-trial motion last November to stop the settlement agreement by contending that Redington does not have the authority to settle without County Council approval.Campisi's after-trial motion also alleges that Redington violated the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Law — also known as the Sunshine Law — by not making the settlement agreement public and not informing the County Council of it. Redington disputed claims from Campisi's attorney, Kirk Stange, that she has no authority to settle cases and pointed out that the County Charter allows the county counselor to settle without County Council approval.

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