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CITY COUNCIL MEMBER LAND DEAL: May raise transparency questions

Should the public know more about a contract with City Hall?

COLUMBIA, Mo 8/31/13 (Beat Byte) -- An expedited land deal between the City of Columbia and a City Council member's family business may raise questions about transparency.   It first appeared on the Council's legislative agenda as schools across Columbia started, and will likely be approved with no public attention the day after Labor Day. 

In a contract introduced at the end of the Council's August 19 meeting, Nauser Investments agrees to purchase 4.3 acres of land from the city for $193,500.  The contract is signed by Gregory Nauser for the benefit of Nauser Beverage, which employs 35 people at a warehouse next to the land. 

Nauser is Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser's husband, and her campaign treasurer, according to Missouri Ethics Commission filings.   Under city law, she will likely be required to file conflict of interest documents and somehow abstain from voting during the Council's up-or-down, all-or-nothing "Consent Agenda" vote Tuesday night. 

City Clerk Sheela Amin introduced the Nauser land deal by reading its number -- B236-13 -- toward the end of 10 other introductions.   Two weeks later, it appears for final approval on the Council's Consent Agenda, where its number will receive one more recitation and an automatic up-or-down vote. 

The contract -- and the staff report accompanying it -- do not mention the Councilwoman's potential conflict-of-interest.   The contract also indicates unanimous consent with no abstentions.    "Whereas, the Columbia City Council has determined it is in the public interest to sell the land to the Buyer," it reads. 

No plans are apparent for the City Hall/Nauser land deal to receive any more attention, Councilwoman Nauser implied in an email asking if a second reading or public hearing were planned.  

"Introduction and first reading was on the last council agenda on August 19, 2013," she told the Heart Beat. 
 
 
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