As the last item of new business on a full July 22 agenda, the O’Fallon City Council read and voted on a resolution pertaining to the potential removal from office of council member Katie Gatewood (Ward 5). Specifically, the resolution called for a public hearing to be scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 30 at City Hall, 100 S. Main St., to consider the allegations of acts that may constitute malfeasance, and/or nonfeasance by Gatewood. If those accusations are found to be true, the council will decide whether Gatewood should be removed from office or if other disciplinary action should be taken.
If evidence is found, the resolution states that council member Gatewood should be disciplined, up to and including removal from office.
The resolution was passed 6-3, with council members Debbie Cook (Ward 5), Deana Smith (Ward 1) and Gatewood voting in opposition. Council member Tom “Duke” Herweck (Ward 2) was absent.
For the hearing, the city council will convene as a Board of Impeachment to hear evidence and be heard on the charges.
According to the Article of Impeachment, allegations against Gatewood include engaging in a post-hiring investigation of then Police Chief Philip Dupuis without the direction of the city council, or approval of the city administrator, and expressing concerns about Dupuis’ employment at the Jan. 14 council meeting when she said “several concerns were brought to (her) by fellow police officers” regarding the hiring or qualifications of Dupuis. Gatewood later confessed that the statement was false and that she lied allegedly to protect her source. The council member has not divulged the actual source but later admitted that it was not “several fellow officers” but instead a former male O’Fallon Police Department officer. Also according to the Article of Impeachment, Gatewood also allowed her husband to testify before the council that he was the source, knowing that he was not.
On June 24, the city council reviewed the findings of a report compiled by Lee’s Summit-based attorney Joseph G. Lauber commissioned by the council the report was to answer questions of whether Gatewood’s statements or actions, related to the selection of Dupuis, violated the duties of elected officials, state laws, or city ordinances.
Lauber Municipal Law, LLC, will present the city’s case and have the burden of proving the alleged charges. Gatewood may be represented by counsel at the hearing. Both parties shall be entitled to present evidence and to cross-examine witnesses.
Cook, who voted against the resolution, expressed concern about the cost of moving forward with an outside firm.
“The city and residents have spent so much money on this, hiring an outside firm,” Cook said. “I really don’t think we need to spend taxpayer dollars dragging this out longer and longer.”
Smith, who also voted against the resolution, stated that she believed the matter should be left in the hands of the voters who put Gatewood into office in 2020.
She also questioned the ability of the council to stay objective when convening as the Board of Impeachment for the hearing.
“ … Regardless of what anyone on this council believes – that they have the ability to remain objective – the optics of this council being the investigative body, the judge, the jury and executioner, just don’t look good,” Smith said.
According to the resolution, the mayor or another duly authorized council member shall preside over the hearing with the assistance of Municipal Judge Dennis R. Chassaniol II serving as a legal advisor.
The hearing before the Board of Impeachment will be held to the standards set forth by the city charter and the Missouri Administrative Procedure Act. The ultimate decision of the board will be published, along with such further actions that may be authorized or required. A simple majority would be required to support a finding of guilt and imposition of discipline.