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      8-24-06  

 

 

 

 

 

Ethics complaint filed against board member
by Stacy Wiedmaier
Landmark reporter

A potential conflict has been found concerning the role of the 4th sub district’s elected board member Kurt Breininger for the Southern Platte County Ambulance District’s Board of Directors.

During the board’s first meeting on Aug. 14, resident Paul Gross posed the following question to every board member, “Are there any members of the board who are employees of a fire district or an ambulance district?” Gross asked this question in order to make sure there were no conflicts of interest. The minutes for this meeting state how Breininger responded.

“I’m a firefighter, but I’m not employed by an ambulance district or within the Southern Platte County Ambulance District,” Breininger said.

Some now insist Breininger’s statement was false since he failed to disclose the fact that he has apparently worked part time as a paramedic for the Metropolitan Ambulance Services Trust (MAST) since July 8, 1997. He also holds a full time position as a city firefighter for North Kansas City. His wife Jackie has been employed full time as a paramedic by MAST since December 3, 1984.

Although the board has not publicly advertised or taken bids for this service, MAST’s executive director, Douglas Hooten, has sent a letter to the board of directors stating the costs of MAST’s coverage to provide ambulance services. Bids cannot be formally placed for this ambulance service until 60 days after the tax levy has been set.

Hooten was aware of Breininger’s intent to run for the 4th sub district's elected seat and felt it was necessary to inform the board of Breininger’s employment with MAST after he won the election.

“I advised chairman (Bobby) Kincaid of Kurt’s employment with us because I think they need to be aware of it,” said Hooten. “MAST wants to make sure we have fully disclosed any information the board needs to know.”

The Landmark has learned that Kincaid contacted four attorneys to seek their counsel on this issue. Two of these attorneys stated there was no conflict of any kind. The attorneys mentioned include the board’s hired attorney, Mark Hubbard, two Union attorneys and an unidentified counselor.

Kincaid made one brief comment about the Breininger issue.

“This is not an issue for the board,” Kincaid stated over the telephone when questioned.

Board member Ron Wheeler refused to comment.

The fact Breininger ran for this seat without informing residents about his potential conflict of interest angers some Platte County resident. Gross, who questioned the board about any ties to a fire or ambulance district, had suspicions before he addressed the board.

“I already knew there was some relationship between Kurt (Breininger) and the firefighters,” Gross said. “I asked the board this question based on an item I found in the statutes. I brought a copy of this to the meeting and showed it to the board’s attorney, Mark Hubbard. Hubbard stated this particular law was not relevant because it only concerns firefighters and not ambulance districts. The board seems to be running scared in this aspect, but even so, it is still their responsibility. I mean, if you ask any person with common sense, this conflict of interest just doesn’t fit.”

Gross worked for the federal government as a contracting officer for over 30 years, and he said that Breininger’s usefulness to the board is questionable.

“The functions of this board include budget development, contract development, and awarding the contract to the bidder,” said Gross. “If you take Kurt’s vote away from these issues, he has no reason to be there. I’m concerned about Kurt’s conflict of interest when it comes to choosing a contract. If Kurt is allowed to participate, then whatever company does not win the bid has a legitimate complaint about how the process was handled. Without a vote for the 4th district, they are unrepresented.”

Some residents are taking action One of these residents spearheading the action is Parkville’s Deborah Hammond, the former co-chair of Southern Platte County’s ambulance district initiative who collected signatures for the issue to be placed on the ballot. Phone calls and a written complaint have been delivered to the Missouri Ethics Commission’s executive director, Robert Connor. Members of the board are not certified until 30 days after the election takes place, therefore time is limited for the ethics commission to conduct their investigation into the matter. Hammond said she feels propelled to act and feels this is an important issue.

“I have a problem with this and I want to stand up for what is right,” Hammond said. “Filing a complaint with the ethics commission is the only way this problem can be remedied. It’s the principle of the thing. He can either choose to step down from the board of directors, or resign from his part time job with MAST. The 4th District deserves better representation. These voters would not have voted for him if they were aware of these facts.”

Different items compiled in the 12 page fax submitted by Hammond include her written complaint, statutes from chapter 105 concerning prohibited acts by members of governing bodies of political subdivisions, and a copy of the minutes from the board’s August 14 meeting. In the written complaint, Hammond stated the following.

“Mr. Breininger’s continued involvement with these decisions threatens the ability of their constituents to receive impartial representation as required by the Missouri Statutes concerning ethics,” she said.

Hammond also stated “After being sworn into office on August 14 by Platte County Clerk Sandra Krohne, Mr. Breininger failed to disclose his or his wife’s employment by MAST when questioned. It is my belief he understood the nature of the question and this nondisclosure was an attempt to conceal his conflict of interest from the public.”

Also included in this fax was a copy of the conflict of interest opinions issued by The Missouri Ethics Commission. These include two relevant pieces stating ‘Possible conflict of interest should be avoided where there might be the appearance of impropriety,’ and ‘Board members should excuse themselves on any matter coming before the board where they have an interest.’

Parkville resident from the 4th District, Dave Rainey, was an original member of the board who helped create the ambulance district.

“Upon hearing this news, I’m disappointed in the results,” said Rainey. “If this news is true, this outcome was not our original intent. It is in everyone’s best interest to review this matter fully.”

 

 
 

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