Evades Sunshine Law; leaves Nauser out of loop
COLUMBIA, Mo 6/1/13 (Beat Byte) -- A February 20 email sent by a three-term Columbia City Council member about the Providence Road Improvement Project suggests behind-the-scenes dealings that violate the Sunshine Law and the spirit of government transparency.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe
sent the note to Grasslands Neighborhood Association leaders Robbie Price
and John Ott,
cc'ing First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt
and Third Ward Councilman Michael Trapp
. Ott and Price have been the primary proponents of a plan to demolish eight stately, historic houses and sell a vacant lot they own to accommodate widening Providence and adding traffic lights.
An identified and credible source forwarded the email to the Heart Beat, which details Hoppe's thoughts about an upcoming April Council vote
to rescind a November 2012 ordinance starting the demolition process and invoking eminent domain against reluctant homeowners.
"Hi Robbie and John, (also including Mike Trapp and Fred Schmidt in cc)," Mrs. Hoppe wrote. "I wasn't anticipating an interested parties meeting before the vote on rescinding
the second meeting in April. My hope was that the neighborhood would come up with their suggested option by the second meeting in April and then we would vote on whether to rescind
and if we rescinded
then hold an interested parties meeting on all options after that. What do you think?"
More troubling, the email appears to evade the Sunshine Law by using private addresses for Council members. And though it mentions 5th Ward Council member Laura Nauser -- who represents the Grasslands -- it leaves her out of the conversation.
"I did my best at council to buy some additional time for neighborhood discussion and further input before any vote on rescinding
takes place," Mrs. Hoppe wrote to Ott and Price. "My vote for Ms. Nauser's motion does not imply I would vote for rescinding
Councilwoman Hoppe and Councilman Schmidt ended up being the sole votes against rescinding the plan
Ott and Price favor. Known as Phase 1 or Option IX
, it met with significant resistance over its cost -- nearly $7 million over two phases -- and procedural snafus. It would have started the demolition, eminent domain, and street widening process.
For Your Eyes Only
has been assigned to Councilwoman Hoppe during her nearly eight years on the Council.
Council members can use private email addresses to skirt the Sunshine Law. In the Ott/Price email, Mrs. Hoppe used her Hotmail address
, a Gmail address
for Mr. Trapp, Mediacom (mchsi)
and a private business email address
for Mr. Schmidt.
In a move that may indicate her thinking about Sunshine Law requests, Mrs. Hoppe referenced an email she sent an hour earlier to Columbia city manager Mike Matthes and public works director John Glascock. That email used her official city address. The two headers are below:
From: Barbara Hoppe <@hotmail.com>
Date: February 20, 2013
, 10:29:19 AM CST
To: <johnott@....>, <price@....>
Cc: <Councilman Trapp...@gmail.com
Subject: FW: Providence/Grasslands email from John Glascock -interested parties meeting in March question
Hi Robbie and John, (also including Mike Trapp and Fred Schmidt in cc):
I received the email below from John Glascock regarding holding an interested parties meeting in March for the Providence/Grasslands road improvement options. I sent him the following response and want your input on the timing. I would assume the later the better for the neighborhood for the interested parties meeting?
Let me know today, if you can or tomorrow at the latest. Also feel free to contact John Glascock directly for questions and clarification or working out the timing on this, but keep me in the loop.
We need to give the Grassland neighborhood association time to discuss the options and weigh in, preferably before the interested parties meeting. Their input and preference is important in weighing how the different options would or would not work for the neighborhood. As late in March as possible, but not during spring break, would be preferable. I will forward your email to the Grassland Neighborhood President to also get his input on the timing of the interested parties meeting. I will get back to you by tomorrow if not today.
6th Ward City Council
Out of the loop
For reasons that are not clear, Mrs. Hoppe's email left 5th Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, who represents the Grasslands, out of the loop.
Nauser's predecessor, Helen Anthony, was deeply involved in the Providence Improvement Project, which aims to reduce traffic and safety hazards around a series of intersections between the Grasslands and the University of Missouri (see story below).
A special February 5 election that returned Mrs. Nauser to the 5th Ward Council seat after two earlier terms brought condemnation from Mrs. Hoppe
on Facebook. Mrs. Nauser's victory was a "sad day for Columbia," Mrs. Hoppe wrote.
Councilwoman Hoppe -- whose support for the Providence Road demolition plan is out of character with her earlier leadership to save the Niedermeyer Apartments -- did not respond to questions from this publication. She took heat during the 2012 election over what some termed "backroom dealings"
with a neighborhood association and fraternity in the 6th Ward. RELATED (Pg. 3):