Conflicts of interest make life "sticky" at City Hall
COLUMBIA, Mo 02/2/15 (Analysis) -- The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a major local corporation is running for a Columbia City Council seat while the corporation's CEO -- the candidate's real-life boss -- is also chairman of City Hall's most influential business group.
It's the second Council-related conflict of interest the Heart Beat has reported in as many weeks. But this one has wider ramifications.
Boone Electric Coop CFO Ryan Euliss is seeking the 6th Ward City Council seat. His boss, Boone Electric Coop CEO Todd Culley, chairs City Hall's Regional Economic Development department (aka REDI), an unfortunate combination of private lobbying firm and taxpayer-funded city department. REDI was a major backer of the troubled IBM taxpayer incentives and Blight/EEZ's biggest promoter.
"All of this is a rather insidious means by which business interests will continue to set the agenda for how taxpayer money is spent," said CoMo Council Watch representative Pam Cooper. "It's also hidden in plain sight."
The City Council has direct oversight of REDI and Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala wants to increase the Council's role in REDI's affairs. The group receives city office space and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars each year. But when Mr. Skala proposed increased Council oversight, Mayor Bob McDavid -- a retired physician -- went from Dr. Jekyll to Mayor Hyde, threatening Skala with a "bloody fight".
Into this cauldron of conflicting interests wandered REDI's board of directors -- the same Board chaired by Euliss' boss, Todd Culley -- to announce it wanted out of local politics. Last month, the REDI board said it would not endorse candidates or issues.
All these conflicting interests have made life "sticky," at City Hall, "putting us on a nerve-wracking path as a staff,” city manager Mike Matthes said in a Trib interview.
That's the same Mike Matthes many folks consider the Town Boss's best friend. If HE thinks REDI is making life at City Hall "sticky" and "nerve wracking", well then.
And yet, the Bosses won't quit. On one hand, REDI swears off political involvement. Then, as though the public won't notice, the REDI chairman's direct subordinate throws his hat into the ring for a City Council seat.
Dear reader: How likely is it that Ryan Euliss, if elected, will ever seriously question, debate, or otherwise challenge the man who signs his paychecks over matters related to REDI, or their uncomfortably close relationship with developers, bankers, and powerful business owners?
As Mr. Wonderful says on the hit show Shark Tank, Stop the Madness! That's the sound of money being murdered.
The madness in CoMo is the non-stop pressure the Town Bosses exert on City Hall, and it's our money they're murdering -- with every failed corporate welfare handout (read: Blight and IBM); every unjust exercise of influence (read: utility billing inequities); every cozy contract that goes to a REDI insider (read: Dave Griggs gets a $350,000 IBM carpeting contract).
"REDI will not endorse any candidates," the group announces. Instead, we'll cut to the chase and run a candidate of our own!
Though we played phone tag for a while, Euliss and I were unable to connect for comment.
-- Mike Martin