Heart Beat story, public outcry prompt Council transparency
COLUMBIA, Mo 9/7/13 (Beat Byte) -- The Columbia City Council quietly nixed a planned automatic approval for a nearly $200,000 land deal involving the husband of 5th Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser.
Five hours into a marathon 8-hour Columbia City Council meeting, Council members moved legislative item B236-13 authorizing a contract to sell real estate to Greg Nauser and Nauser Investments off their Consent Agenda.
The move, which gives the public the opportunity to review and comment, came after a Columbia Heart Beat story criticized the Council for avoiding transparency, and a public outcry ensued. Consent Agenda items, as the name implies, are given automatic approval or consent without public hearings, comments, or further scrutiny. It's a part of the Council's biweekly meeting agenda experts say should be used both wisely and sparingly.
The legislation and the reports accompanying it failed to mentioned Mrs. Nauser's family connection to the contract, and did not include conflict of interest disclosures required by city law.The Consent Agenda has been in the spotlight before as an instrument of non-transparency. In Dec. 2008, the Heart Beat received a tip from a City Hall insider that then city manager Bill Watkins and Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank Waters were planning to use the Consent Agenda to take private land downtown for a State Historical Society Museum.
Two bills authorizing eminent domain later appeared on the Consent Agenda until Heart Beat reports forced their removal, and ultimately, the plan's defeat.