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Five U City Residents File Suit Against City of U City Alleging Sunshine Violations; Ask That Hiring of City Manager be Voided

Hiring of City Manager Lehman Walker last year is at the center of suit brought by five University City residents.

Five University City residents have filed a lawsuit against the city of University City, claiming it violated Missouri's Sunshine Law in its hiring of City Manager Lehman Walker last year.  

The suit, which was filed in the St. Louis County Circuit Court on Tuesday, also alleges numerous other Sunshine violations by the City. 

The plaintiffs are Paulette Carr, Mark and Tamara Donohoe, Steve McMahon and Tom Sullivan. The suit asks that Walker's appointment to city manager be voided, and that the City Council be found in violation of the Sunshine Law. 

The five also want civil penalties assessed as well as reimbursement for attorneys fees and costs incurred in bringing the suit. 

In a press release that accompanied their petition, the plaintiffs allege city officials deceived residents about the city manager selection process, by announcing at the end of April of 2010 that a search was being conducted or would be conducted.

In their press release, the plaintiffs said, "The city manager’s job was never posted or advertised as planned, no questionnaires were ever distributed to citizens, no search firm was ever contracted with and no search was ever conducted. No meeting was held seeking public input. The only candidate interviewed was Lehman Walker." 

The plaintiffs point to email correspondence they obtained from Walker's previous employer in Evanston, Illinois, between Walker and Shelley Welsch.

The email from Walker to Welsch is dated April 1, 2010, five days before Welsch was elected mayor. The email's subject line reads; Resume for Lehman Walker. The text states "Hello Shelley, As discussed. Lehman."

After the council voted to hire Walker on July 12, 2010, Welsch sent Walker an email at 6:42pm, which states "The deed is done. It went well." 

Walker, whose hiring is at the center of the lawsuit, told University City Patch he had "no comment on pending litigation."

For almost twelve years Walker worked as U City's director of Community Development, before he left . 

Click here to read the resume Walker submitted to University City officials.

In an email to University City Patch on Wednesday, Mayor Shelley Welsch defended the City's hiring of Walker.

She wrote,"Under the Charter of the City of University City, the City Council has the full authority in the hiring of the City Manager.  Six members of this City Council voted to hire Mr. Walker as City Manager." Councilmember Terry Crow voted against offering Walker an employment contract. 

In her email, Welsch said Walker has extensive experience in municipal government - "more experience than any previous City Manager had upon his/her hiring," she wrote. She said in Walker's first eight months in office, University City has been well served by him. She added the City "will continue to benefit from his expertise and professional approach to municipal management for years to come."

In a letter posted on the City's official website that's dated July 29, 2010, Mayor Welsch addressed the City's path to hiring Walker.

"The City Council chose to hire Mr. Walker without going through a national search. Although the Council had planned to do a national search, when we became aware of Mr. Walker’s strong interest in the job, and the equally strong support for him that existed on the Council, we realized he would rise to the top of any applicant pool," she wrote in that letter to residents.

She also said "We felt it was in the best interest of the City to truncate the search, to not spend the money and time the national search would involve."

Plaintiff Paulette Carr said the suit is intended to hold city officials accountable for their actions. “Mayor Shelley Welsch and the city council had the responsibility to select the best person for the city manager’s job and do so in a lawful manner. They failed to meet those responsibilities," Carr wrote.

The plaintiffs obtained copies of Walker's e-mails through a Freedom of Information request. 

Residents wishing to read copies of the email exchanges can go to www.ucitycitizen.org.

Click here if you want to know more about Missouri's Sunshine Law.

Sebastian Serra April 09, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Nick, your correct there was not a sunshine request for emails from University city (at least that I am aware of)...and I was aware that those emails came from Evanston. Normally businesses and governments have rules about sending information from inside the organization to someone outside. My point with Joyce P, was that she was sending emails from Julie and Mayor Adams and other "internal" information to Walker. In a corporate environment this will get you fired. Based on what Ricci did with emails previously, I guess Ucity doesn't follow these types of guidelines. Most professionals know to use personal email accounts for "personal" business. I assume Joyce's emails to Walker were not part of her job requirements. It is obvious that there was a lot of deception in the hiring of Walker. I don't think anyone can dispute that. I wish Walker success. I have nothing personal against him. I do feel that the process would have been better served if more candidates were considered. Usually positions of that level/responsibility are better served with multiple interviews and a thorough vetting process. Lastly, it seems that we have a lot problems in Ucity, and having a council/mayor that get caught up in lies takes everyones time away from solving problems. I don't have a lot of faith in several of the council members and am thoroughly disappointed in Mayor Welch....just my opinion, but I guess thats what these comment sections are for!
Nick Frederiksen April 11, 2011 at 02:36 AM
Consultant, Your post cleary asked why Joyce P and Lehman W did not comply with the sunshine law. I am not sure how you could be aware that there was no sunshine law request made to Joyce and Lehman and ask the questions that you asked. You did in fact say that Lehman was not smart enough to use a private e mail. I trust that Mr. Walker is very intelligent, dignified and capable. The entire Council Voted on the hiring of Lehman Walker and my understanding that Terry Crow was the only one who disagreed. It would seem that it could easily be infered that you would have been smart to not ask the question regarding why Joyce P and Lehman W did not comply with a sunshine law request when in fact you claim to be aware that no such request was made. I would futher infer that your initial character assasination attempt on Joyce P and Lehman W. was uncalled for and lacking in common curtisy. My opinion and your opinions are not the issue and more cathartic than substanative. I am still confused in your latest reply that you make reference to sending "internal information". The citizens of the community have asked for transparency and yet the substance of the internal information was such you have a grave concern that it was shared. Governments accross the board would go belly up if they were held to the same standards that businesses are. Businesses have to make profits, Governments function as long as they have a tax base. What is normaly done does not qualify as a law. Nick Fred
Sebastian Serra April 11, 2011 at 03:32 AM
@nick. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree....I'm off to miami for 2 weeks and don't plan to look at this site or think about all the troubles in our little town until imreturn. If your looking for me to say you win our debate...ill say it, but it doesn't change my opinions on this topic. Enjoy your week.
Nick Frederiksen April 11, 2011 at 03:57 AM
Have a great time. These exchanges are nothing personal, I think we and the majority of the citizens just want to move on. Again, Have a great time. Nick
Nick Frederiksen April 11, 2011 at 08:52 PM
A national search takes time and would be expensive. There is no gaurantee that the person suggested would be the best person for the job. . During the time lapse there would be money lost by U City During this time period the person who worked with/for Julie would be making the decisions. She would proceed in the same way that CM Julie F. did. Shelly Welsh and the majority of the City Council approved the hiring of Lehman Walker. THEY TAKE RESPONSIBILTITY,they own that choice. Mayor Adams, Mr Crow, Mr Price and Mr Sharpe rubber stamped mismanagement by CM Julie F. There is documentation that shows she hid the amount of a settlement against U City by putting it under legal fees and such. I asked Lynn Glickert and Mike Glickert to tell me the amount of the settlement and the line items that it was obscurely labled by. CM Julie F. refused to share this information and that was with the support of Mayor ADAMS,Terry Crow and the other 2 members of the Government. How can 4 mentioned NOT take responsibility for the illegal costly actions of the CM? CROW writes a letter indicating he will be the ultimate fixer and highlighting the LAW SUIT,why even bring it up. The suit lacks substance and merit. It takes away the focus on those who are responsible for the financial troubles U City is in. U City is a great community. Ignore facts just make smoke Terry BUT WE ARE ON TO YOU. Cindy get answer from Crow, please. Nick F 346 0779.

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