March 10, 2005

License Bureau Contract Dispute Ends With Mayor’s Resignation

One day after the Memphis Democrat reported the City of Memphis would be awarded a state contract for vehicle licensing and registration, the Memphis City Council voted 3-0 not to accept the contract.

The vote was 3-0 because Alderman Mike Stone was acting as Mayor Pro-Tem after long-time Memphis Mayor Ron Alexander resigned prior to the meeting blaming the council’s impending action on the contract for his decision to leave his office.

“I am tired of always being second-guessed and people changing their minds in midstream,” Alexander told the council, reading from his own letter during the work session prior to the regular council meeting March 3. “Therefore I will call the proper people tomorrow and get your license bureau contract stopped and you can consider this as my letter of resignation – effective immediately.”

The Mayor indicated that he felt he had informed the council of the project to bring the license bureau to city hall on more than one occasion prior to entering the contract on the city’s behalf.

However the council had never officially voted on the proposal. One alderman pointed out that the council had never actually discussed the plan during any public meeting, further noting that Mayor Alexander submitted his resignation in the work session before the council meeting, before the aldermen even had a chance to discuss the license bureau contract issue.

“I like to work behind the scenes and not serve as mayor for name recognition,” said Alexander. “For a ‘do nothing that doesn’t know anything,’ I’ve helped to bring better than $11 million into our city and the area.”

In his letter of resignation, Alexander questioned the council’s motives for not accepting the contract. He indicated that the plan to bring the Scotland County License Bureau under city control had been discussed between the mayor and council members in informal settings, where the mayor had witnessed no opposition to the project.

The mayor chose the work session as the setting for his announcement, noting that the aldermen had come together to discuss the possibility of raising water rates to offset lost income caused by the departure of rural water to the Lake Rathbun water district.

“When rural water left the city, we still had a lot of the same expenses, but not as much income,” Alexander said. “I have been searching for ways to increase income without having to cut personnel. After much political work we were awarded the license office contract. This would mean an additional income of at least $30,000 per year… and as much as $40,000 per year that would come into our treasury without hiring any help.”

Following the discussion, Alexander left the office and the council concluded the work session. Stone called the regularly scheduled meeting of the council to order and the scheduled agenda was completed. The council concluded the meeting and convened in executive session. Ultimately the council returned to open session when the mayor’s resignation was accepted. At this time the council voted 3-0 not to accept the state contract for the license office.

Stone and the aldermen expressed their regret at the Mayor’s decision to resign. Alderman Remley also noted that it was a difficult decision to refuse the license bureau contract.

Council members indicated that the contract was refused because of discrepancies in the revenues the job would generate as well as for a number of changes in the contract. The aldermen pointed out there were no concrete figures for determining revenues for the office, stating that conservative estimates placed the annual income at $20,000. Council members added that changes in the license office contract now called for the owner to be responsible for all bad checks, and also placed financial responsibility for various office expenses that had previously been met by the state.

As of March 7, the Memphis City Council has not appointed a replacement for Alexander. Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Stone currently is filling the vacancy.

City officials indicated that the Missouri Municipal League has advised the council to appoint a mayor to fill the un-expired term of Alexander, which runs through April 2006. If Stone, or another alderman was appointed to the office, then the council would have to appoint a new alderman to fill that un-expired term.

According to Missouri Statute 79.280 regarding cities, towns and villages:

“If a vacancy occurs in any elective office, the mayor or the person exercising the duties of the mayor shall cause a special meeting of the board of aldermen to convene where a successor to the vacant office shall be selected by appointment by the mayor with the advice and consent of a majority of the members of the board of aldermen. The successor shall serve until the next regular municipal election.”

According to Scotland County Clerk Betty Lodewegen, filing has officially closed for the April 5, 2005 election, meaning the vacancy for mayor can not be filled by a regular municipal election until 2006.

The council scheduled a special executive session to follow a council workshop set for 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8.

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