February 9, 2023 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

I attended the February 9, 2023 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

All three commissioners were present. This meeting was held in the Camden County Justice Center Jury Assembly Room. This location created some problems since the deputy working the security checkpoint wouldn’t let people attending the meetings bring their cell phones to the meeting. He even prevented people from bringing video cameras to record the public meeting.

We’ve talked before about the policy of not allowing cell phones into the Justice Center. It appears that this is a policy that comes from the Presiding Judge. Various citizens spoke during the meeting about whether the judges had the authority to forbid cell phones in areas that were outside the confines of their courtrooms. Can a judge prevent people from bringing their cell phones to an appointment with a prosecutor or a visit to the Court Clerk’s Office?

As you can imagine, the meeting already started off a little spicy. It was a big crowd and there were a bunch of uniformed deputies there. It was a tinder box that was ready to explode the instant someone’s smuggled cell phone started to ring.

The first agenda item was Mack’s Creek Community Park.

This item was mentioned from a previous meeting. Mack’s Creek had a park that became county property when the town was unincorporated. They were forming a Park Board that would maintain the park with volunteers. Camden County would rent the land to the Park Board for $10 annually. Commissioner Williams previously said it was $1 per year. Perhaps inflation forced the county to jack up the rent. By leasing the land to the Park Board, the property will still be covered by Camden County’s insurance.

The lease was approved unanimously.

The second agenda item was Water Districts 4 and 5 ARPA Funds and Grants.

This was another carryover from a previous meeting.

Camden County had earmarked enough ARPA funding for the water districts to give them a 21% down payment for their ARPA grant requests to Missouri DNR. It turned out having the 21% funding mattered a lot less than having a low Median Household Income number, so all of the Camden County water requests were denied. The Commission was now planning to give the ARPA money that was originally earmarked for the grants to the water districts for needed repairs and projects.

The District #4 (Horseshoe Bend) manager explained that the district was equipped with inefficient water meters so they weren’t accurately recording the water usage in the district, and were missing out on revenue. They are now using a cellular-based meter system. (Frankly, from what I’ve seen on my water bill, I doubt they missed a single gallon.) They are also investing in more automation and technology so they can monitor and troubleshoot their system more efficiently. They have huge reserves ($3.9 Million), but they also received the smallest amount of ARPA money ($163,390).

Their biggest project for the future is a new well, a 750,000 storage tank, and a booster station. The manager proudly affirmed that the district raises rates every year. Traditionally, the rate is raised around 3% per year to match the CPI, but this last year they increased the rate 8% (Sheesh!). The district is looking to make an 8% increase for the next few years and then “back off.” (I assume that’s to give Bend People a chance to buy Christmas presents at least one year.) The water rate is currently around $30 plus usage cost.

The Commission voted unanimously to release the earmarked ARPA money to Water District #4.

Water District #5’s top priority is to build a new well and expand its storage capacity. Their district charges a flat fee of $35 (!!!) for water to their customers and they are located near Cedar Heights. They were allocated $939,802 in ARPA money for the DNR grant that was denied. They have bonding capacity that could be combined with the ARPA money to finance their planned projects. The district could also expand services to Kinderhook to increase the water pressure for those folks.

The Commission voted unanimously to release the earmarked ARPA money to Water District #5.

The third agenda item was a noise ordinance for Highway 54. A citizen was complaining that trucks were using their exhaust brakes as they were coming downhill on Highway 54. She asked for that item to be included on the agenda, but she wasn’t able to make the meeting, so it was removed from the agenda.

The fourth agenda item was January tax abatements. They were approved by the Commission.

The fifth agenda item was CGI Digital. This was a proposal for a promotional video for Camden County that was tabled at a previous meeting.

Commissioner Skelton said he contacted Camdenton High School, and that they were too busy to help with the project. Shawn Kober asked why Camden County wasn’t using local video companies to make a promotional video for Camden County? The Commission was also asked if they had asked the Camden County Business District to use their tax money to produce a promotional video to advertise the county? Commissioner Skelton explained that the CGI Digital video was free and he was happy to have other local companies produce promotional videos for Camden County if they were also free.

The last item was Prosecuting Attorney Richelle Grosvenor (pronounced “Grove-Ner”).

She stood up and explained that she took over her position on January 1, 2023 and had no opportunity to participate in decisions in the Prosecutor’s Office prior to that date. There was a recent media case involving a big Camden County case that was dismissed. The decision on that case was made before Grosvenor took office.

Since those media reports, her office has received Sunshine Law requests regarding case dismissals. Sunshine Law requests go through Camden County’s Sunshine Law attorney. When a Sunshine request is made on a specific case, the requestor will receive the last document filed by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on that case. This is a different type of request than asking for a list of all of the cases dismissed by the prosecutors in the month of December.

To make things even more difficult, they have discovered that information in the case management system was not being updated accurately prior to January 1, 2023. As a result, Prosecuting Attorney Grosvenor cannot provide accurate information from her case management system until it can be updated and verified. In an effort to be transparent, she wanted to explain the issues they are struggling with, but she also had a primary responsibility to keep the public safe and prosecute criminals.

She was asked about the cases that were dismissed in the months before she took office. Among the defendants in some of these dismissed cases were child molesters and drug traffickers. They are currently unsure exactly how many cases were dismissed, but she estimated it was over 100 cases. Another issue is that cases can be dismissed for a wide variety of reasons and it’s difficult to determine how bad the problem is until the case management system can be updated to the point that it can be trusted to be accurate.

How did this happen? Was it laziness? Sabotage? Incompetence?

What recourse do we have?

These dismissed cases fall into a few categories:

  • Some were dismissed, but they can be re-filed.
  • Some were initially rejected, but the detective can submit it again for filing.
  • Others were dismissed pursuant to deferred prosecution agreements. These cases were dismissed based on a contract and they cannot be re-filed unless certain conditions are met.

Grosvenor said she would return to the Commission and give an update when she had more information.

And that was that.

2 thoughts on “February 9, 2023 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

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