Mr. Kespohl used a city-issued pass key to enter City Hall first, for top placement on the ballot


COLUMBIA, 11/2/12 (Beat Byte) -- Gary Kespohl gained an "unfair advantage" over Karl Skala by using a pass key to enter the Daniel Boone City Hall building early Tuesday morning, arriving at the office of Columbia city clerk Sheela Amin first, thereby placing his name at the top of the ballot.

The allegation came from sources close to city government connected to neither campaign. City attorney Fred Boeckmann has since confirmed Mr. Kespohl's use of the city-issued key (see story here).

Mr. Kespohl, a Columbia City Councilman and Mr. Skala are set for an April 2013 rematch -- their third -- over the Third Ward Council seat. Both have each won and lost. Their time of arrival at Amin's office has become a first in what promises to be many bones of contention.

Skala arrived on the premises at around 4 am, but could not enter the building, so sat in his car outside.

Mr. Kespohl arrived three hours later, but because he had a key, was able to enter and walk upstairs to Amin's office, officially becoming first in line and by City Charter rules, top name on the ballot.

But that issue is driving the dispute. Top ballot placement can confer as much as a 5%-7% vote count advantage, statistics have shown, and since each of their previous contests have had the two men separated by only a few dozen votes, such an advantage could prove critical.

"I certainly don't want to run this up the flagpole as a personal beef, but yes -- Councilman Kespohl did use his key to get into the building, while I had to wait for someone to open it," Skala told the Heart Beat. "I'd been waiting outside for hours, but by the time I got to the second floor to file, both Gary and Councilman [Daryl] Dudley were already there." (Mr. Dudley filed for re-election to the 4th Ward Council position).

To resolve the dispute, city attorney Fred Boeckmann "may toss a coin," Skala said. "Literally, a coin toss could decide the Third Ward Council race in 2013. Though I accept that procedure, I can't say I'm happy about it."

Even a coin toss, however, wouldn't be fair, said a source speaking on condition of anonymity. "Mr. Kespohl used his elected position, knowingly or unknowingly, to gain an unfair advantage over a political rival," the source -- not connected to either campaign either now or in the past -- told the Heart Beat. "Without that pass key, Mr. Skala would have been first in line, many hours before, so top placement on the ballot should go to him."