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Hartmann: A County Government WIthout Honor | Hartmann | St. Louis

Hartmann: A County Government WIthout Honor | Hartmann | St. Louis
Hartmann: A County Government WIthout Honor | Hartmann | St. Louis

click on to enlarge The district council has just appealed a settlement on Tim Fitch's pension after reaching a settlement months ago.

The district council has simply appealed a settlement on Tim Fitch’s pension after reaching a settlement months in the past.

County Executive Sam Page final week previewed what 4 full years of his management of the St. Louis County authorities will appear like.

It’s not good.

The county appealed a decide’s order to implement a settlement Fitch appeared to have reached after the courts confronted his pension declare. The situation at stake was whether or not Fitch ought to have misplaced his $85,000 annual pension profit as a result of he was elected to the county council on an annual wage of $20,000.

The county appeared to agree that Fitch should not lose his pension, however then backtracked in August and is now dragging out the court docket battle.

But the story that issues right here has nothing to do with the advanced world of retirement planning. And it isn’t about Fitch, who didn’t run for re-election and is leaving the county authorities on the finish of the 12 months after 35 years of service – together with 4 as a councilman and 5 as police chief.

No, the story is about honor as a result of, in contrast to Fitch, the Sam Page county authorities is not going wherever. And the shortage of character and good religion displayed by Page’s lackeys in Fitch’s case ought to alarm county residents and everybody related to county authorities.

Fitch and his lawyer are unwilling to debate the case as it’s pending. Page and his Non-Communication group do not reply questions from me on public points, so I’ve determined to not waste their time or mine asking a few matter in court docket.

But we do not have to weigh both occasion. The particulars are set out in Judge Jeffrey P. Medler’s “Findings of Facts” in language that’s each clear and startling.

From my perspective as a layman, the hanging proof is present in paragraph 35 of the decide’s findings in an e-mail despatched by lawyer Dan Emerson, appearing district counsel (so named when he was employed by the district to signify him) . Here is Emerson’s e-mail dated August 8 to Fitch’s lawyer, Kim Mathis:

“My apologies, but my marching orders have changed at the last minute and I will be filing a letter of appeal before tomorrow’s deadline. I still see a possible path to settlement with your client, but there are major concerns about the implications of the judgment and its potential impact on the benefits of those who have accumulated time as councillors. The filing of the NOA gives us an additional 30-day window in which the trial court retains control of the verdict until the record of appeal is filed.

“As far as I do know, it is a council member [Republican Ernie] Trakas will suggest laws to deal with these points by amending sure pension rules when the amended regulation is handed[,] The county’s considerations in regards to the bigger situation might seemingly grow to be tutorial. I see that’s on the Council’s 8/9 agenda.

“Again, I’m sorry for this late change of events as we got so close to the finish line. See you at the hearing on August 16.”

This one is pretty easy to unpack. This is an email — an apology email, no less — in which Page’s district counsel openly admitted to Fitch’s council that he “modified my marching orders” to carry out a settlement agreement that had in fact been settled.

But wait, could someone say, isn’t Beth Orwick the real district counselor appointed by Page in 2019? Orwick withdrew over a conflict presented by her office representing Page.

Well, apparently Judge Medler has an answer for that, too. “In every brief filed in this court, District Councilor Emerson has followed in Beth Orwick’s footsteps and included his title in the signature blocks. Any authority that Beth Orwick has with respect to settlement agreements generally, County Counselor Emerson has with respect to the settlement in this case.

“County Counselor Dan Emerson has authority as a result of he stands within the sneakers of the accused/defendants and can be an lawyer. He is believed to have authority from the county to deal with the matter and he did simply that.”

So if that is the case – and who am I to argue with the decide? – Who might give Emerson “marching orders”? I narrowed it down to 2 suspects: Sam Page and the Tooth Fairy.

Do you consider within the tooth fairy?

Emerson filed a brand new enchantment on Nov. 22, saying the problems more likely to be raised within the enchantment are allegations that the decide made “the grant of the permanent mandamus injunction” and erred in “enforcing the alleged settlement agreement between the parties”.

I chorus from that argument, and never simply because I do not know of any Third Base Mandamus constitution. What’s attention-grabbing right here has nothing to do with pension legislation or the standard of Medler’s judgment. It’s that pesky integrity factor.

Here’s extra from Medler about it:

“Incontrovertible evidence presented who contacted Emerson on July 18[ed] Mathis over the phone and informed her that the county was interested in settling the case by paying Chief Fitch his unpaid pension and making an offer to pay some or most of his attorney’s fees and expenses to get the case over with .”

And there was this:

“By at least August 4, 2022, the parties had entered into a settlement agreement that included an agreement that Chief Fitch would receive his pension payments that defendants/defendants would not contest the case and an agreement on attorneys’ fees and costs. ”

That was 4 days earlier than Emerson’s “change of marching orders” emailed Mathis.

The decide additionally referred to particulars of different communications between the events that negotiated attorneys’ charges and the like. And he added:

“There was a clear difference of opinion here. The terms of the agreement are unquestionable. The parties have fully come to an agreement on all material (and even non-material) matters related to the settlement.” There’s extra the place that got here from, however county residents don’t have any motive or curiosity in acknowledging nuances of pension or settlement legislation examine. You do not must have a legislation diploma to know the fundamentals of this dispute.

At first look, it all the time appeared absurd that Fitch, or anybody else, ought to sacrifice the pension advantages earned as a county worker as punishment for being elected to the county council. That’s an inexpensive place, not a authorized one. And the one motive that is even a difficulty is as a result of Republican Fitch and the Democrats, together with Page, are bitter political enemies.

There is a sure irony within the Democrats right here stealing (so to talk) a web page from the nationwide Republican playbook, which misrepresents Social Security advantages as an “entitlement” — slightly than for what they’re, which is one thing that has been earned. County pension advantages are earned and the expectation of receiving them shouldn’t be an act of misconduct. But backing out of a deal is a type of wrongdoing. And there isn’t any query it occurred right here.

That indicators an issue that seems to survive Tim Fitch within the county authorities for at the least 4 years.

Ray Hartmann based the
Riverfront instances in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or begin him Donnybrook at 7 p.m. Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis within the Know with Ray Hartmann Monday to Friday from 21:00 to 23:00 on KTRS (550:00).

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