For the first time ever, the O’Fallon City Council has approved proceeding with an investigation into the accuracy and circumstances of a current council member’s actions.
The council member to be investigated is Ward 5 representative Katie Gatewood.
At the March 25 council meeting, after more than an hour of accusations and debate, action on a bill calling for the investigation was postponed until after the April 6 mayoral election. With that vote in the books, Bill No. 7298 sponsored by council member Dale Kling (Ward 3) was passed by a vote of 7-3 at the council meeting on April 8.
Council members Debbie Cook (Ward 5) and Deanna Smith (Ward 1) joined Gatewood in voting against the bill. The conduct investigation now will proceed.
The bill proposes retaining special counsel Joseph G. Lauber from Lee’s Summit in western Missouri to assist the council in conducting an investigation into the accuracy and circumstances of certain statements made by Gatewood and her conduct in the course of a confidential personnel matter, which has been linked to the hiring of Police Chief Phillip DuPuis.
Several council members spoke for and against the bill, each briefly making similar statements as in prior meetings covering this bill.
Prior to the vote, Kling asked City Attorney Kevin O’Keefe whether or not this bill constitutes “due process” (a lack of which had been a concern of some council members).
O’Keefe said the bill engages a lawyer to determine the facts, upon which they can consult with the council and provide advice. He said he (as city attorney) is not in a position to provide legal advice to the council when it is investigating one of its members or is investigating the conduct of one of its members.
Kling pushed a bit more about due process, and O’Keefe replied, “When and if the inquiry and consultation with the council lead to any question of action, then due process will attend any action arising out of that inquiry.”
Mayor Bill Hennessy added, “Mr. O’Keefe needs to stay the heck out of this.”