Fickett and Ivan Foley
Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas issued a
public demand at last Thursdays county commission
meeting seeking repayment of the unconstitutional
pay increase taken by current first district
commissioner Michael Short and former second district
commissioner Diza Eskridge in 1999 and 2000.
In 1997, Short, as well as a majority of the
other members of the Salary Commission voted to
give pay raises to Short and Eskridge. Thomas,
who voted against the raises, is now asking that
those raises which were deemed unconstitutional
by the Missouri Supreme Court in Laclede County
v. Douglass on May 15, 2001 be paid back to the
Think of it this way, Thomas explained.
If any other county employee received a
pay raise of $19,753.50 (roughly $18,000 plus
interest) in error would the commission demand
it be repaid? Of course. Why is this situation
In closing comments at Thursdays commission
meeting, Short said:
About four years later, the Supreme Court
in a case coming out of Laclede County issued
an opinion that told the legislature what it done
was wrong. That the statute if passed was unconstitutional,
for various reasons. The court specifically did
not address the issue of the countys reliance
upon the legislature and thats because in
Missouri it is well established in the law that
actions taken in reliance upon legislative action
are deemed to be unconstitutional.
You have to be able to rely on your legislature
and the laws that they pass as being constitutional
laws. It is very well established in the state.
So the court did not address that issue. There
has never been a court decision in this state
that has said that what the Platte County Salary
Commission did in 1997 or what any salary commission
did was unconstitutional.
Thomas responded to Shorts closing comments
by stating, Short is a lawyer. He should
know that his excuse will not stand up in court.
After the Supreme Court decision in Laclede County
v. Douglass, the commissioners in Laclede County
immediately repaid the money.
I guess Short hasnt bothered reading
the case, said Thomas. I hope he
doesnt make that mistake when providing
legal advice as part of his other job.
Short said Laclede County is a third class county;
he said no first class county has had its affected
officeholders pay back the questionable pay raises.
He said he has no intention of paying back his
raise "unless a court should take it up and
decide that here in Platte County we need to do
Short told The Landmark that he disputes Thomas
stance that she had made private demands for return
of the money.
She sent one e-mail suggesting that we
obtain counsel on the issue, which we did,
said Short. She had never made any demand.
Short continued: In our discussions with
the Missouri Association of Counties legal counsel,
he was clear in his advice to us that that decision
did not require repayment and that we didnt
need to do that.
According to Thomas, there were numerous attempts
made on her part to clear this matter up with
Commissioner Steve Wegner recently questioned
(in last week's issue of The Landmark) why I had
not demanded repayment of these raises. Well,
as usual, Wegner does not have his facts straight.
I have made several private requests of the commissioners
to address the unconstitutional pay raises received
by Short and Eskridge, said Thomas. Since
the commissioners have ignored these private requests
I wanted to make a clear public demand that the
commissioners cannot ignore.
Also in the session, Thomas presented required
disclosures to the county commission that the
state auditors office has used in its audits
of counties with outstanding amounts due from
these unconstitutional pay raises and which she
plans to include with the 2003 financial statements.
When Short and I took our oaths of office,
we swore to uphold the Constitution of the State
of Missouri. Trying to uphold the constitution
is not political, it is my sworn duty,
said Thomas. Short apparently has forgotten
his oath to not violate the constitution.