All three commissioners were present.
There were about a dozen people present in the audience besides the normal Camden County employees who usually attend. A bunch of them were in suits. People wearing suits at a Commission meeting are usually:
- Going to a funeral after the meeting
- Commissioners who have to give a federal deposition that day.
My guess was that they were attorneys.
The first agenda item was Tax Surplus.
There were two tax surplus items. Tax surplus usually occurs when a property is purchased at the Camden County tax sale by a bidder and the amount bid is higher than the tax amount that was due on the property. This creates a surplus. The original owner of the property is then able to claim this surplus. There is a legal process required to ensure that this surplus goes to the appropriate person. Charles McElyea, the Legal Advisor to the Commission, reviews these surplus return requests and if his review confirms that the paperwork is in order, the Commission will vote to distribute the surplus funds to the requesting party. If the surplus funds aren’t claimed after a certain period of time, the money is given to the school district.
The surplus requests were approved unanimously by the Commission.
The second agenda item was for a Sewer Board appointment. Randy Stauch wasn’t present and was replacing a member from the Camelot District who had resigned. His appointment was approved unanimously.
The third agenda item was moved up ahead of the closed session matter and this was regarding the Magic Dragon Bike Trail. They have presented previously before the Commission and they want to build a large network of mountain bike trails throughout the Lake of the Ozarks. The intent is to provide a year round tourism attraction that will generate economic traffic similar to the way the Katy Trail and bike trail networks in northwest Arkansas do.
According to the presenters, they have raised $70,000 in donations of the $100,000 they originally requested from the Commission to develop the Impact Study and their Master Plan for the bike trail network. They’re planning to start the trail on the west side of the Grand Glaize Bridge and have already laid out a bike skills park at the Tri-County YMCA. The ultimate plan is to expand the trail system and expand the network to connect with other bike trails in the region.
They don’t qualify as a DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) because they don’t currently have a full time employee who only handles tourism and they haven’t been operating in the tourism business for two years. After the Master Plan is complete, they will start a Capital Plan for private donations and can seek out public and private grants.
Commissioner Hasty talked about the old Bagnell Spur railroad path that ran from Eldon to Camp Bagnell. According to Commissioner Hasty, at one time, 75% of the world’s railroad ties were shipped out from Camp Bagnell. That’s a lot of railroad ties. He thought the old rail line could be a potential route for the bike paths. He also suggested that collaboration with Summit Gas might offer access to easements that could be used for bike trails.
Commissioner Gohagan asked if the Commission could perhaps give them the $30,000 they still needed from the Passport Fund. That fund currently has a balance of $40,000. Speaking of this, the Commission had talked at previous meetings about restarting their Passport service. I’m not sure if this ever happened, but they should probably follow up on this because it’s both a convenience to the community and an extra source of revenue for Camden County.
Commissioner Hasty seemed reluctant to take the money out of Passport and thought maybe the money could come out of the budget. Auditor Laughlin stated it would have to come out of Passport because the Commission is already over budget on their unallocated funds.
This matter was then tabled by the Commission for further discussion.
The Commission voted unanimously in a roll call vote to go into closed session. Commissioner Hasty asked if they would have the closed session in McElyea’s office, but it was decided to have it in the Commission meeting room. So we all had to leave.
As I was getting my last cup of coffee, I started watching the folks who weren’t leaving. The guys in the suits had a laptop and were setting up some sort of presentation on the pull down screen on the wall. It looked like there were about eight of them in total and they were staying for the closed session. One of the “closed session” gentlemen turned and introduced himself to me.
I waited outside the meeting room with the other Unwanteds and chatted for about twenty minutes. While we were talking, several people told me the gentleman I met is a real estate developer. Now that was curious to me. I looked him up and he is definitely described by local news sources as a local developer. His Linkedin account lists him as the owner of a local development company.
So here we go again.
The Sunshine Law of Missouri requires the Commission to conduct all Camden County business in open, public meetings. This is the default procedure. In order to not have open meetings, there are a few select exceptions that the Commission can cite to justify why the meeting is closed to the public. In fact, the Sunshine Law is so strict that if they close a meeting, they are forbidden to discuss anything during the closed meeting that is not directly related to the exception that was used to close it.
In order to close a Commission meeting, the Commission has to list the subsection that justifies closing it on the agenda. The subsection for this meeting was “Closed Session RSMo 610.021 Sub #1”
When I originally read the agenda, I had assumed that, having used Subsection #1 to close the meeting, they were consulting with their attorneys about a lawsuit they are currently facing. I even commented to someone that it looks pretty bad if there were that many attorneys in the room and the attorneys have to show you a slideshow to let you know how badly the case is going. It’s pretty clear from the statute that this subsection can only be used to have a closed session if you’re meeting about:
- Legal actions involving the Commission
- Causes of action involving the Commission
- Litigation involving the Commission
- Privileged communication between the Commission and its attorneys/representatives
If this meeting was not regarding one of these things, the Commission has once again violated the Sunshine Law.
So how does real estate development fit into this? Who knows? We sure won’t know because it all happened in secret. I really hope the Commission didn’t have a closed session to discuss real estate matters with a private company.
The only real estate subsection for closed sessions is Subsection #2 and that applies when the public government body itself is looking to lease, purchase, or sell real estate, but that’s not the subsection they used to justify the exception to the open meeting requirement.
Welcome to the Camden County Commission. Where the Sun rarely Shines.