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City Council Approves Reprimand of University City Councilmember Byron Price

City Council voted Monday night to formally reprimand a longtime University City Council member.

In a vote of 4-3 the City Council approved a resolution Monday night to formally reprimand University City Councilmember Byron Price for his behavior at a February 14, council meeting.

Price called the reprimand "disappointing and outrageous." He told University City Patch  he believed it was politically motivated. "They can't get me at the ballot box so they had to think of a way to try and eliminate me," he said.

Councilmembers Michael Glickert, Lynn Ricci, Stephen Kraft and Mayor Shelley Welsch voted aye, in favor of the resolution. Councilmembers Arthur Sharpe, Terry Crow and Byron Price voted nay in opposition of the resolution.

In her letter of reprimand dated February 17, University City Mayor Shelley Welsch stated, "I am writing to express my grave concerns about your bullying and disorderly behavior." The mayor said Price's behavior put the City and himself  "at risk for a defamation lawsuit."

The letter accused Price of the following:

  • Defamed City Manager Lehman Walker
  • Speaking in a bullying fashion to the City Director of Community Development 
  • Verbally attacked one Councilmember on three separate occasions 
  • Verbally attacked the Mayor and her office 
  • Became physically menacing to Council members by rising from his chair and shaking his index finger in their faces.

This is the second letter of reprimand Mayor Welsch has sent councilmember Price concerning his conduct. He received the first in October of 2010.

The resolution of reprimand states that if Price's "disorderly behavior" continues at future council meetings the council will consider additional disciplinary action.

Price vowed that the reprimand would not have a chilling effect on his behavior. "No, I'm going to do the same thing." He said University City residents won't sit by and allow the city council to remove him from office. "It would explode the City," he said. 

Price also denied that his behavior at the February 14, council meeting was out of line. "I've been acting the same way for four terms...14 years," he said. "This is a total character assassination and I'm not taking this lightly."

Prior to the vote, there was a motion to amend the mayor's resolution of reprimand, to remove the bullet point that stated Price had been physically menacing to councilmembers by rising from his chair and shaking his index finger in their faces. Price was adamant he did not rise from his seat and shake his finger. The amendment did not pass. Even Price himself voted against it. As Councilmember Terry Crow explained "Once the genie is out of the jar, it doesn’t really matter if you take it back, because the allegation has already been made." 

Councilmember Lynn Ricci refused to back down from her description of Price's behavior as "menacing." She said Councilmember Price did everything that was stated in the resolution. And she upset some people in the audience when she said "Would you look at me as I'm talking to you Mr. Price."

Coumcilmemer Stephen Kraft said the reprimand was not about a person, a position or an issue, but a reprimand of actions. "Actions that break the rules. Actions that discredit this council," he said.  "Bullying is not free speech. Bullying is meant to inhibit free speech," Kraft added.

More than 100 people packed the Council Chamber Monday night. Many spoke out in support of Price. "The only thing that moved was his lips. He didn’t remove from that seat," said longtime University City resident Richard Dockett. "Anybody that said they saw that are telling a damn lie." 

St. Louis County Councilmember Hazel Erby (D) was very disappointed with the reprimand. She said the City Council passed up an opportunity Monday night to show leadership. "This is taking us backwards." She said the council majority's recent actions to reprimand Price "is bordering on insanity." Erby said maybe the problem stemmed from Mayor Welsch.

"If this foolishness continues, maybe we should look at our charter regarding the procedure for recall." Many in the audience gave Erby's comments  a standing ovation.

The night took an emotional turn when Councilmember Lynn Ricci's daughter spoke in support of her mother and the council as a whole. She called Councilmember Price a wonderful man and said that her mother was not a racist nor a liar. Ricci swiveled her chair around, with the back facing the audience. Both women were in tears.

And despite Councilmember Ricci's call for five police officers to be at City Council meetings, the number remained at two Monday night. In a letter to the mayor, Ricci had expressed concern that an audience member could use some of their discussions as motive to turn violent. 

Cindy March 01, 2011 at 01:52 PM
Paulette Carr received a standing ovation when she asked the mayor to redraw the resolution and instead use "real leadership" to resolve her issue with Mr. Price. As it turned out, Mayor Welsch put the nail in the coffin and cast the deciding vote in favor of the reprimand.
calla smorodin March 01, 2011 at 03:32 PM
In Carr's appeal to Mayor Welsch to withdraw her motion to reprimand Councilman Price, Carr pointed out the irony of the mayor's position, given that Welsch campaigned on a platform that proclaimed her ability to "bring people together." Welsch got her 4 to 3 vote; however, Price and his two supporters on the Council clearly walked away as winners. Calla Smorodin
Rosalyn Borg March 01, 2011 at 06:58 PM
Council was correct in its reprimand of Councilman Price. I have observed his conduct over the years. He is disdainful and disrespectful toward his colleagues, especially the women, and of U City residents in general UNLESS they live in the 3rd ward. When I addressed Council at one meeting last year, Mr.Price was extremely rude toward me. While councilmembers represent their wards, they also need to be concerned for the city as a whole. Mr. Price should have been reprimanded years ago.
Rosalyn Borg March 01, 2011 at 07:03 PM
Re: Mayor Welsch's campaign to "bring people together" You can only do so when people are willing to work "with" each other and not "against" each other for the greater good. Mayor Welsch's comments don't apply in this instance because Mr. Price rarely demonstrates his willingness to work with his colleagues on the council.
Kim March 01, 2011 at 08:23 PM
It is significant to note that not a single resident stood up last night to speak on the Mayor's behalf. Not one. Citizen after citizen spoke in support of Councilman Price, and all who did so received loud applause and/or a standing ovation. The remarks of the mayor and her majority cohorts on the council were met with complete silence punctuated by the occassional boo. The position of the citizens who came out in large numbers to have their voices heard before our city government last night was clear. As Ms. Smorodin remarked above, Councilmen Price, Sharpe, and Crow took the high road and clearly came out as winners.
Sebastian Serra March 01, 2011 at 10:38 PM
Rosalyn, if we are defining which council members are RUDE, I think Lynn Ricci fits in that definition as well. She definately has personality flaws, and being unable to relate to people in a professional, respectful manner is one of them. You can infer her rudeness simply by reading the meeting minutes, you don't even have to be in attendance. And I understand she had her daughter stand up and say that she is not racist. I mean, let's get someone who couldn't possibly be biased! Did she have people from her ward (the people who elected her) standing up and showing her their support. If so, the media didn't mention that.
Maggie Stanley Majors March 01, 2011 at 11:26 PM
I am embarrassed and saddened by the actions of the Council and in particular that the Mayor did not reconsider her actions. I still think the long term results for the city could be good, if and only if, leaders step back, get the therapy the first citizen speaker called for, make the necessary apologies and take actions to speak openly about how and why this all came to pass. I am still of the opinion there must be an open conversation about race - and I am not convinced all the current board members are capable of this. If they prove incapable to take these steps, I do not believe they are fulfilling their duties as elected representatives. I hope the newly reactivated Commission on Human Relations might help our community address race in a more real way, but I know it alone will not be enough. Still, I will be attending their meetings as an interested citizen, watching like a hawk and speaking up if necessary. To the Mayor and the Council: The citizens are listening and we will not continue to condone such absurdity.
Jared Jones March 01, 2011 at 11:44 PM
When Ms. Ricci had her daughter stand up and declare that her mother was not a racist, I could only shudder and cringe. When Ms. Ricci asked Mr. Price to "look at me please", I felt like I was watching some Saturday Night Live skit. How depressing. With all of the issues facing this city, this is the best we can do? Mayor Welsch should be ashamed.
Kim March 02, 2011 at 12:03 AM
Yes indeed, elements of last night's meeting reminded one of a Saturday Night Live skit. Or perhaps even a circus, as the Riverfront Times blogger observed: http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2011/03/university_city_council.php Mayor Welsch and Councilwoman Ricci must be very proud...
3rd Ward Rogue March 02, 2011 at 06:20 AM
I am against the reprimand also, but I do not believe Councilmember Price is qualified to do his job. When he promised to spend more money on his voting base and the public till ran dry, he is unable to come up with constructive ways to help the seniors, children and fixed income folks that look to him for leadership, he has failed his voters and the disappointment shows. By his displays he is not converting Councilmembers to his side and this is his job. Working constructively to come up with solutions along with the ability to compromise is key and in the multiple council meetings and budget meetings I've attended over the years; he has lost thousands of dollars that could have benefitted his constituents because he was unable to compromise. One example comes to mind; one meeting Councilmember Ricci was absent and he proposed giving the Senior Home Improvement Fund $5,000. Mr Glickert moved for an amendment and Mr Price voted that down. He then lost Mr. Glickert's vote so the whole attempt failed. Compromise is key to his job, but he prefers strife to keep his followers fired up, this does nothing to help them. I do not agree with the reprimand, but volitilty seems to follow Mr Price and it is time he took responsibility for his actions. His followers like the outbursts and come to see his antics as a show put on for their benefit. That is where I believe the problem comes in because they keep voting him in for the emotion not the substance.
Maggie Stanley Majors March 02, 2011 at 07:02 AM
Interesting insights, 3rd Ward Rogue. Most everything is more nuanced than it seems on the surface. A truism, but it certainly applies at the moment to both our mayor and to our councilmember Mr. Price as well. On a separate note (but keeping nuance in mind), here's a story on some of the issues that led to this mess, specifically, the Wilson buyout situation, as reported by the West End Word. Useful information for those like me who have not been at every council meeting: http://www.westendword.com/NC/0/1769.html
Holston Black Jr. March 02, 2011 at 03:38 PM
People who don't use their birth name to address issues as important as local politics, shouldn't even say or write anything. Our constitution gives us the right to speak our minds but to hide behind a pseudonym is like hiding under a hood and robe. Come out and be a man or woman don't be a wimp stand up for your opinions. Mr. Price stands up for his and he is willing to be voted out of office by his constituents (those that show identification at the voting place where it counts). The residents of Wilson Avenue are in the second not the third ward , so Mr. Price speaks out fro others as well as residents of the third ward.
3rd Ward Rogue March 02, 2011 at 06:14 PM
Thanks Maggie, I forgot where I left a message about the flood buyout part, I'm scatter brained with blinders on sometimes! This is a great article, thanks for the info. I wasn't aware that more federal money arrived and I'm glad U City is still standing upon its word to help, because the promise of 1 million came from the last set of Councilmembers and Mayor to match what the Federal Govt. promised. As you know, I am against any govt. entity taking too much, especially when it affects people/businesses that are suffering. My view also comes more from past knowledge so I may be a little off sometimes. I used to insert myelf on the local level, but I have been asked to focus more on state issues presently. My main concern with this is that people are putting too much faith in Government, they tend to be cumbersome and slow. One of the 1st helping hands to show up after the floods was the church my husband and I belong to, New City Fellowship on 82nd St. I don't see a problem with spending reserve money to help flood victims if t is agreed upon by majority of council. I believe Mr Price and others could work with County officials, (Mrs Erby and County Exec. C. Dooley), plus the State level people like Sen. Maria Chapell-Nadal and Rep. Rory Ellinger. Call all these Reps. together along with MSD and work out immediate ways to help such as eliminating their property tax, negotiating legal help etc. I know these people are tired of waiting and now our local govt. is
3rd Ward Rogue March 02, 2011 at 06:21 PM
fighting among themselves, how disappointing! You seem interested in Public Policy, I applaud your willingness to step up and make a difference, it can be a cruel arena to work in!
3rd Ward Rogue March 02, 2011 at 07:48 PM
Sorry Mr Black, I have to protect my family members. My husband owns a local business and my mother-in-law has lived here all her life, she went to Hawthorne as a child. They may or may not agree with what I say here, but I cannot have their identity linked to my views.
Sebastian Serra March 02, 2011 at 09:41 PM
Mr. Black, there are a lot of "crazies" out there. If people chose to use a pseudonym, its probably to protect themselves. What difference does it make if you know I am your neighbor of the guy down the street. I was actually suprised that people used their real names on this site, because its certainly not the standard approach people use on other News Websites. When was the last time you saw a posting on CNN, MSNBC, or even stltoday using their real name?
Holston Black Jr. March 02, 2011 at 09:50 PM
I am sorry for the way you feel but when you use someone's name as you do Mr. Price there is and oblication not to hide your identity. The Ku Klux klan persecuted my people for too many years with this tactic and still are today. I normally don't even respond to those who aren't willing to reveal themselves. I have been prosecuted right here in U. City with some other African Americans. We were bold enough to fight the school system for better education of our children ( a fight which is still going on) we named ourselves "The Black Committee for Educational Excellence" this name was to let the children and community know African American adults were standing up. All of the founders were prosecuted by the establishment at the time, through loss of jobs and in other ways. If you understand my reluctance to consider your reticence in revealing yourself or not, I don't care. I consider this publication a priceless asset and only wish it will continue and that it had been here thirty years ago.

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