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HAS DUDLEY BEEN A DUD? A CoMo City Councilman's crime, sentence, and troubled first term

Is it finally time for voters to recall the guy in the white shirt and tie?  Part 1

COLUMBIA, 2/14/13 (Beat Byte) -- Daryl Dudley's guilty plea, and late last month, year-long probation for selling alcohol to a minor will doubtless pose more questions for April voters pondering his record.

Among those questions: Did the 4th Ward Columbia City Councilman's crime constitute so-called "moral turpitude," which mandates removal from the Council under the City Charter? Should he have resigned? Did he ever publicly apologize and if so, should voters forgive him?
 
If they do, what about what many consider shoddy constituent treatment that led to a recall effort against him?
 
Finally, is the establishment guilty of a glaring double standard, giving Mr. Dudley a pass while calling out Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala for the far lesser offense of eating pricey meals during Council-sponsored trips?
 
Presently seeking re-election, Mr. Dudley "has put a lot of his constituents through hell," said a 4th Ward voter whose neighborhood was part of a controversial Ward gerrymandering move in 2011. Championed by Mr. Dudley and devised by his appointee to the city's Ward Reapportionment Committee -- former Matt Blunt political operative Rob Monsees -- Ward gerrymandering was 2011's Blight: a belligerent over-reach from local power brokers that ended in public uproar and total defeat.
 
Controversial from the beginning, Mr. Dudley's political career started with an unprecedented endorsement from the Columbia Chamber of Commerce -- a first in the group's 104-year history.
 
The endorsement -- which included Mayor Bob McDavid and present Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl -- widened a rift between liberal and conservative Chamber members, prompting some to resign and others to protest. This publication received requests to investigate, most notably the claim many Chamber members are IRS-designated 501c-3 non-profits prohibited from such political involvement.
 
Once on the Council, Mr. Dudley developed the troubling habit of expressing strong reservations about an issue, then voting to support it, often against the wishes of his constituents.
 
"Mr. Dudley...noted he was hesitant in approving this transfer," read minutes from the March 7, 2011 Council meeting about a vote to transfer $1.8 million in TIF tax incentives for the Tiger Hotel to a troubled Canadian promoter named Glyn Laverick. "Dudley thought the financing would come from a bank or another financial institution versus an individual. He noted there had been bad publicity surrounding Glyn Laverick and many of his constituents were recommending the City not approve this."
 
Minutes later, Dudley voted YES. Laverick has had problems ever since.
 
Despite widespread public opposition, Mr. Dudley ardently pushed to shove most of the Old Southwest out of his Ward and into the First Ward during the summer-fall 2011 Ward gerrymandering battle. Long known as a liberal voting block, Old Southwest residents voted against Mr. Dudley in droves during the 2010 election. Conventional wisdom held he and his supporters wanted them out of the 4th Ward to guarantee future victories.
 
Last year, Dudley's support of Blight/EEZ was as unquestioning as his support of gerrymandering was passionate.

Mr. Dudley's prickly persona doesn't help, either. On two occasions this writer witnessed, he quickly became aggravated, snapping at constituents who were questioning his most controversial moves: his unyielding support for Ward gerrymandering, for which he ultimately became the Council's sole "yes" vote; and his repeated votes for blight/EEZ.
 
He declined to answer questions about the criminal charges, and though he may have since apologized publicly, this writer can find no reports of such. In fact his comment to the Columbia Daily Tribune -- that he was "happy to put the incident behind him before the election" -- sounded like anything but an apology.

The local establishment seems to agree with Mr. Dudley's dismissal of the incident. Arrested in June 2012 for selling alcohol to a minor as manager of the Hy-Vee convenience store on West Broadway, he immediately faced a question central to the Columbia City Charter: had he committed a so-called "crime of moral turpitude?"

That question was never answered. City attorney Fred Boeckmann spoke to the media about every penalty but removal from the Council (including 3 months in jail), and Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank Waters urged the public to "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

"Dudley's crime was one of carelessness, not criminal intent," Waters wrote in a June 2012 editorial. "The judge might have reason to give Dudley a good rap on the knuckles, but the powers that be at City Hall have no business kicking him off the council. As for moral turpitude, forget it."
 
But some legal scholars consider furnishing alcohol to a minor under any circumstances a crime of moral turpitude. And the judge gave Mr. Dudley more than just a rap on the knuckles. U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines recommend one year probation for low-grade felonies and high-grade misdemeanors. Had the Councilman's offense involved mere carelessness, it seems less likely he would face an entire year in the criminal justice system.
 
Rather than carelessness, selling alcohol to minors shows "shockingly poor judgment," according to the New Jersey Attorney General. For Columbia voters then, another question: What does the offense say about Mr. Dudley's judgment, especially in the context of his other political missteps?
 
NEXT: Voting on city alcohol policy
 
 
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