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Fair Grove board votes to end contracts with police chief and city attorney

Special meeting tonight at Fair Grove City Hall

June 26, 2013|Mary Moloney, KSPR News Reporter |

FAIR GROVE, Mo. -- The Fair Grove Board of Aldermen will meet in a special meeting tonight after they voted not to renew the contracts of the police chief and city attorney.

Decisions to end relationships with police chief Shawn Eakins and city attorney John Houseley come as the town attempts to defend the board against alleged Sunshine Law violations.

"I don't feel like they are acting the in the best interest of the people they are supposed to represent," said Jill Ballard who lives in Fair Grove. "The problem I have with it is that the board didn't give a reason why they were letting them go and they didn't give a plan for what's next and I feel like that's leaving the people of Fair Grove in the dark."

Board President Dennis Frame explained the decision has to do with money.

"The police chief has done a good job and if we had a little bit more money there, it would be no problem," Frame detailed. "But our town, like many others, is in a budget crunch and we are hoping we can save a little money."

That reason isn't good enough for Ballard who serves on the park board and is president of a local organization.

"Luxuries! There are plenty of luxuries in the budget that they can cut besides police protection!" exclaimed Ballard. "I'm worried that other police will follow in protest and then our town will be really left in a lurch."

Not everyone shares Ballard's point of view. Shannon Carpenter has lived in Fair Grove for 40 years. Around her, news travels "pretty fast."

"I'm glad that they are not going to renew it. I think it's time to get someone different in here. I really do," Carpenter said. "I don't think that they are doing their job. I think that they are goofing off because it's a small town. There's not much crime here, so I think they are bored. That's just my opinion."

As for the city attorney, Frame's reasoning to end the contract was a little more vague.

"He's done a fine job," said Frame. "We just want someone more independent. Someone who can focus mainly on Fair Grove."

City Attorney John Houseley declined to comment about the situation.

What worries Carpenter is the attention her town is receiving. In a surprise move last month, the Board of Aldermen voted to impeach Mayor Tim Smith. Smith countered by filing suit alleging board members violated the state's Sunshine Law. A judge ordered Smith to still legally serve as mayor as the suit progresses.

The mayor and police chief did not return calls requesting comment.

"It's just like a clown town. We are a laughing stock right now and I don't like that," said Carpenter. "I don't want people from other towns coming here thinking it's a clown town and they can do whatever they want in town."

The board will meet in an emergency session Wednesday night at 6:30 in the Fair Grove City Hall. The public is encouraged to attend the meeting.

"I think people really need to let the board know how they feel about the situation," said Ballard. "They are supposed to represent us, the taxpayers, the people who live and raise families in Fair Grove."

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