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Park board appointees have attendance issues

Marsha Clark, Bart Bradley have missed majority of meetings in past year

by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

For most employees of any well-run corporation or organization, missing eight out of 13 important meetings would likely lead to dismissal.

One may think attendance would count even more when it comes to those holding a publicly appointed position — a city’s park and recreation board that has the authority to direct spending decisions involving taxpayer’s money, for instance.

In Platte City, however, two parks board members with poor attendance records earned reappointments by the mayor. Marsha Clark and Barton Bradley were reappointed by Mayor Dave Brooks last week. At the same time, the mayor appointed two new board members, Steve Sampsell and John Kurtz.

Thrust into the media limelight after Brooks angrily lashed out at The Landmark for reporting on a letter to the parks board soliciting volunteer labor, both Clark and Barton have taken public stances on the way the board is being represented by their president, and how the story of the incident has been reported.

The mayor's letter, sent in late April ,was ignored by the park board, but both Clark and Barton maintain that they wanted to respond to it, an allegation the board president, Dick Stephens, has repeatedly denied.

In two tersely worded letters written to an area shopper publication, Barton and Clark characterized The Landmark story as "insignificant" and questioned why Stephens' version of the story was given merit. Barton even asked readers to contact the board at their 400 Main Street location, in the event that they had any questions regarding the board and its actions.

This week, The Landmark took him up on the offer, using Missouri’s Sunshine Law in an attempt to acquire the board’s minutes from the past year. After learning that the records were not readily available, City Clerk Tanya Bates and Park Director Dannie Stamper were able to retrieve and supply the records roughly 72 business hours after The Landmark's initial request.

A quick perusal of the attendance portion of the records revealed that the most active letter writers of the board were also the least likely to attend meetings: from the June 2, 2003 meeting through the April 5 meeting of this year, Clark has missed seven of the 13 meetings and Bradley has missed eight of the 13.

Clark, an appointed public official who claims she hasn't read a local newspaper in more than two decades, took issue with Landmark Publisher Ivan Foley’s suggestion that Clark should make motions at meetings for record keeping purposes and to guarantee action (motions, just like attendance, are included in minutes from public meetings). She then challenged that "if Dick Stephens was allowed to make comments, then Foley should have made sure the parks board had made a motion for Dick Stephens to speak on the entire board’s behalf.”

However, the bylaws of the park board specifically state that it is the president’s duty to represent the board at public affairs. In addition, the president of the board is routinely the person of contact for media inquiries about board action.

Clark did not return phone calls for this article.

When asked why he missed the majority of park board meetings over the past year, Bradley replied, "I got sick." When asked about his reappointment and a possible run at board president, Barton said only that he hadn’t made up his mind, adding that he and the mayor "have talked several times about several things."

When questioned if the mayor had specifically asked him to run for the board presidency, Barton replied with "no comment.”

Although the mayor (with the consent of the board of aldermen), has the power to remove any members of the park board for neglect of duty, his reappointment of the two often-absent board members at last week’s meeting of the Platte City board of aldermen dispelled any such notion.

The appointments did, however, raise eyebrows when Brooks slid the appointments through the no-debate, consent agenda portion of the meeting. Alderman Ron Porter objected to the move, which Brooks later explained was necessary due to the board’s June election. Brooks said it was important to get his appointees on the board as soon as possible so that they may vote in the election of officers next week.

Brooks could not be reached for comment.

All nine positions on the park board are now filled for the first time in recent history. The full roster and when their terms expire:

President: Dick Stephens, 2005; Vice-President/Secretary: Bart Bradley, 2007; Members: Steve Sampsell, 2007; John Minyard, 2007; Tom Wooddell, 2005; Chris Wallen, 2007; John Kurtz, 2007; Marsha Clark, 2006; Susan Wallen 2006.


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