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Dardenne Prairie aldermen seek change in government

Dardenne Prairie’s six new aldermen wasted little time in taking actions at their May 6 meeting that they say will “shine new light” on city government.

And the board’s new president said the two new ordinances and six resolutions approved were directed with long-time Mayor Pam Fogarty in mind. Fogarty resigned two days later, saying she wanted to move on with her life.

“As you can see in the last 12 months we’ve replaced all six aldermen,” said Alderman David Zucker (Ward 1) who was elected president at the meeting.

The new board was an indication that residents wanted change, he said. Aldermen Kevin Klingerman (Ward 1),  Blake Nay (Ward 2) and John Gotway (Ward 3) each defeated incumbent aldermen in the April 7 election. Zucker and Aldermen Doug Santos (Ward 2) and Dan Koch (Ward 3) were elected last April. Two aldermen are elected in each of the city’s three wards in alternate years. They serve two-year terms.

Aldermen unanimously approved two new revised ordinances at the May 6 meeting that board members say provide more oversight. For more effective oversight, “the BOA (Board of Aldermen) needs more frequent reports from city staff and the means to pursue inquiries into all matters of interest to the city,” stated a memorandum by Zucker in the board’s meeting packet.

The ordinances state that the board can hold hearings, subpoena witnesses, and conduct investigations, interviews, examinations and inspections. Employees are also protected from retaliation from supervisors for giving information to the board, he added.

Included also is a provision allowing the board to sit as a committee of the whole with the mayor not allowed to sit, preside or participate in the committee meeting. The board can also designate one or more members to a subcommittee to oversee specific city functions and report back to the board.

The board passed five resolutions establishing the subcommittees and designating specific aldermen as chairs. Santos will chair a public safety subcommittee to oversee law enforcement issues. Nay, will chair a communications subcommittee to look at the how the city can effective communicate with residents. Zucker will chair a public works subcommittee. Koch, will chair a parks and recreation subcommittee and Gotway will chair an information and technology subcommittee.

A sixth resolution sets new procedures for considering and passing bills and resolutions. Bills submitted now are “reviewed” but not “approved” by the mayor. The board also wants possible bills submitted the Wednesday before a board work session or meeting and the information posted on the city’s web site by Friday of that week.

“It’s a start,” Zucker said in an interview last week. Zucker said the board members have expertise and should help the city but not supervise the staff‘s work. The city hasn’t opted to hire a new city administrator, he said.

The new ordinances and resolutions generated little discussion by board members or the mayor. Most of the two-hour board work session and meeting were spent reviewing public works projects.

“The board can all do what they want to do,” Fogarty said in an interview before she resigned. “It’s their call.”

Fogarty questioned whether some new board members understood some aspects of city government. The bills and resolutions that the board approved were not reviewed by city legal counsel. Zucker, a retired attorney with 40 years of legal experience, said he wrote the bills and resolutions.

Zucker said the time now is for the city to look into the future and make it a better place and not so much by “doing an autopsy” into the past.

“We’re at a fork in the road,” he said.

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