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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.

Jim April 04, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Throwing out things like who you supported in the election or the fact that Lehman Walker is the first black City Manager really misses the point of all of this - what the city council did was wrong. They went around voters to hire Mr. Walker, giving residents no option in the matter. I really like the city that I live in. University City is diverse and filled with culture - and you can get some awesome food and entertainment there - but it deserves better than what those emails reveal. It is too bad that a lawsuit has to act as a wake up call for citizens to be more proactive in their city and a message to the mayor and city council that they simply can't ram through a candidate for a well-paid position to spare us the expense of a job search for a new CM.
George Lenard April 04, 2011 at 10:37 PM
OK, I think they got the "wake up call." Now drop the lawsuit and save us the money, divisiveness, and embarrassment in the eyes of the wider community. Here's what I want to know: how's Mr. Walker doing? Is this a genuine issue about whether he's a good choice for the job -- or what? If it is, and he's doing an unacceptably poor job, try to convince the Council to fire him and start over. That won't have the lawyers running the meter like this lawsuit will. As far as "going around voters," spare me! Voters elected this Council and Mayor. These elected officials, not the voters, choose the CM,. If you don't like their decisions, vote them out next time. That's democracy. In the meantime, let's move on, for the good of the community.
Cindy April 04, 2011 at 11:02 PM
The petition isn't about Mr. Walker or the job he is doing. The petition lists eight specific violations of the Sunshine law. For those attending council meetings the last few months it is painfully obvious that this lawsuit doesn't even begin to address all of the violations that have taken place in the past year. Just last week the Patch ran an article that mentioned resident complaints of Sunshine violations during a Plan commission meeting. Gloria Nickerson's Sunshine requests related to the mayor's improper removal of her from the Economic Tax board have gone ignored. These are just a couple of quick examples. It's not like residents asked once and filed a lawsuit. In some instances residents have asked for the same information repeatedly over a span of months. If not completely ignored, some responses from elected officials have been misleading. And in the case of the hiring process for the city manager, one might say some of city officials were even deceptive. How else does one explain that last summer Ricci, Kraft, and Welsch repeatedly denied that Mr. Walker was ever discussed as a candidate prior to June 28 when the emails so clearly tell another story. What other recourse do residents have when the elected officials repeatedly ignore residents who raise serious legal and ethical concerns? In order to have a democracy elected officials must uphold their oath of office and behave in a lawful manner. Some U. City officials have failed in this regard.
Nick Frederiksen April 05, 2011 at 01:40 AM
Mr. Walker is a person of color. He is intellient and professional. African American vs Candian is not the issue. It is a matter of appearence leading to prejudice. It seems like a huge leap to infer U City Council Members, past or present, being paid a huge amount of money for the many hours they give to the taxpayers. Do you know the salary of a U City Mayor or a council member is paid, I suspect not. Let us get through this and allow the elected officials to do the best they can for the taxpayers. Nick F.
Nick Frederiksen April 05, 2011 at 01:49 AM
Mr. Walker had nothing to hide regardless of what e mail he used. Your reasoning strongly infers thae t being smart while conducting improper business makes it okay, not so. If you have never met Joyce Plum that may also indicate that you have never been to a council meeting where she routinely is. She was at the same job under Mayor Adams, I suspect that she is too professional to make reference to any potential wrong doings under that government. I believe she is in a position to make an educated opinion on many issues. Have a good day and be honest regardless of how cunning you are about any deceptions that you are involved in. Nick F
3rd Ward Rogue April 05, 2011 at 02:42 AM
I think the Council is payed $145 a month and the Mayor is paid twice that much.
Dave Olander April 05, 2011 at 03:45 AM
Cindy, Not sure where you are coming from here. Is is patently obvious that the lawsuit IS about hiring Lehman Walker. The News Release from the plaintiffs, one of whom is your husband, Steve McMahon, clearly states, “The plaintiffs ask that the appointment of City Manager Lehman Walker be voided.”
Cindy April 05, 2011 at 02:00 PM
I restate my earlier comments. The hiring of Lehman Walker is not the issue. The issue is the process and deception with which he was hired, the resulting Sunshine violations, and the multiple other Sunshine violations (eight specifically in the petition) that have taken place under the current administration. The petition asks that the vote be voided because it was an improper vote. It is important to note that the council could have hired Mr. Walker in an open, transparent, and legal manner - yet, as the emails show, they chose not to. Residents should be asking why? For those that haven't read the petition, the section Mr. Olander is referring to reads: "A. Declare the Council knowingly and/or purposely violated the law by voting to offer or approve the Employment Contract to Walker on July 12, 2010 and void the vote; B. Declare the Council knowingly and/or purposely violated the law by making a hiring decision by consensus in the July 6, 2010 closed session and void all actions taken by the Council during the closed session;" For the full context, one needs to read the petition. But, I'll say it again. This is not about Mr. Walker. It's about adhereing to the city charter and Missouri state laws.
Jim April 05, 2011 at 03:32 PM
Dispensing with a job search (which seems like due diligence for hiring someone for a job that has a large salary and wide-ranging power) because, supposedly, the ideal candidate is right there under our noses is not the good government, it is cronyism. Mr. Walker and his position are an end-product of a bigger problem with the system. Asking me if he is doing a good is beside the point. Asking me if he is he best person for the job? I can't tell you that either because nobody else was considered. And saying that I can just vote out the council in two years is blind to the fact that what the council did would be considered wrong, perhaps illegal, were it to come before a court. I don't believe in the "my city right or wrong" approach and I especially don't believe that you can do something wrong and then insist that we should ignore it "for the good of the community."
Myra Lopez April 05, 2011 at 08:41 PM
I removed a comment from the stream after a complaint from a reader. Again, Patch promotes spirited debate but does not want to alienate readers by allowing comments some may find offensive. This is the Patch posting policy. http://patch.com/A-gjS5. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. myra.lopez@patch.com 314-616-2920.
Kim April 06, 2011 at 01:13 AM
Hi Myra. If you could please tell me which part of my comment was not in compliance with Patch policy I would be happy to revise and repost. Thanks!
Myra Lopez April 06, 2011 at 01:53 AM
Hi Kim. I remove a post whenever I receive a complaint. The complaint had to do with the sentence about voting the bums out and the sentence questioning the integrity and possibly honesty of the current U City's administration. (I apologize if my paraphrasing is off. I don't have the post anymore). The party believed the statement fell under the category of *defamatory, abusive, obscene, profane or offensive. Please feel free to repost. But essentially if a person/persons feel offended I take the post down as to not cause any further issue. Being a moderator is new for me. My intention is not to censor.
Sebastian Serra April 06, 2011 at 02:30 AM
@Nick h. If walker or plum had nothing to hide, then why did they not comply with the sunshine request. It seems to me the only people cunning about deceptions are walker, plumm, ricci, and welch. I don't know why you are calling me cunning in my deceptions? And what difference does it make if I go to the meetings, if joyce does her job correctly I get everything I need in the meeting minutes...which I read from cover to cover.
Kim April 06, 2011 at 03:13 AM
The phrase "vote the bums out" or alternately, "throw the bums out" is a family common idiomatic expression (240,000 Google results just now) referring to the opportunity for voters to rid themselves of incumbant politicians they feel are not doing their jobs come election time. It was not directed at anyone in particular, and I apologise if the reader did not understand the reference. If the Patch does not allow citizens to suggest that their local politicians are being dishonest or lacking in integrity, then so be it. As I rewrite my post I will try to find another adjective suitable to describe elected officials who say one thing publicly while clandestinely doing quite the opposite. Any suggestions?
Sebastian Serra April 06, 2011 at 03:21 AM
Myra I appreciate the forums and open disucusions. Not to menion we are finally getting some good reporting. since i work for a large news organization I feel you fit the nische we needed in the city. In regards to deleting the comments it seems some latitude has to be given, otherwise, someone will find something offensive with anything they don't agree with.
Myra Lopez April 06, 2011 at 12:21 PM
Thanks again for all the feedback. The site has been up since December and I appreciate everyone who has embraced it. I'm trying to find my footing as the moderator. As I stated in an earlier comment the first post was deleted when a reader contacted AOL and AOL deleted the post. I wanted to acknowledge that the post had been deleted, so I mentioned it to the readers. Before that time, I had received complaints but felt it was not prudent to start deleting comments, as it would lead to the situation we find ourselves in.
Holston Black Jr. April 07, 2011 at 12:27 AM
I appreciate the number of comments that have been elicited on this subject. I am still apalled by the pseudonyms used by some of the contributors. Having lived for over 70 years through segregation and now I am concerned when it seems someone speaks from under cover. I know this isn't a court of law but it's only courteous to use your given name or some other way that the people you are writing to, will know who you are. Those of us who aren't afraid to use our names would give more credit to someone else who used their name, maybe it's just me because of my African American background!!!
George Lenard April 07, 2011 at 01:16 AM
Holston, I'm white and I agree 100%. The more time you spend online the more you'll see people willing to say things under cover of pseudonyms they would never have the guts to say face to face or have associated with their name. For some reason, print publications insist on verifiable names and addresses, but online ones don't. Same policy should apply, I'd say.
Nick Frederiksen April 07, 2011 at 01:41 AM
Consultant: What sunshine request did Joyce P and Lehman W. not comply with. The complaint, per Cindy T, indicates that there were 8 violations of the sunshine law. They did not fail to comply with any request. The e mails that were printed came from a sunshine law request that was made to the jurisdiction that Lehman Walker worked for. You indicate that Lehman was dumb, not cunning, because he used an e mail that could be subject to a sunshine law request. That would be the e mail account he used while employed by a government office. Your post said that he is dumb for not being deceptive by using another account. My comment to you refers to you equating an non-discoverable e mail was being smart. If you have be cunning, smart by your logic, in a deception that would still not indicate honest, just sneaky. Please let me know what Sunshine Laws that Joyce P and Lehman W. failed to comply with. Those filing the suit states that the council and Mayor did not honor the Sunshine Law by being open. Watching and listening to a council meeting, observing body posture, and hearing the tone used by those making verbal statements is always more indicative of what occurred than by reading the letters typed upon a page. I believe that you misconstrued the meaning of my words. Clear up my lack of understanding on the lack of compliance by Joyce P and Lehman.
Nick Frederiksen April 07, 2011 at 02:00 AM
Holston, I am replying to your comment on posting comments and using your true name. I agree with you that it is a more credible way to post. I am not an African American but I do see where people who have been descriminated against may have a deeper understanding of this issue. I also agree on your comment about Mr. Walker. I believe that Mayor Adams and Council Member Price mentioned that they would miss him at the time he left U. City. I may be wrong on that so correct me if my memory does not serve me well. Perhaps the Consultant can recall what he read cover to cover in regard to each Council Meeting and clear up the issue. Nick Frederiksen, 420 North Hanley Road, Cell Phone 314 346 o779.
Maggie Stanley Majors April 07, 2011 at 04:51 AM
Don't want to take this thread off topic, but I support Mr. Lenard and Mr. Black in the use of real names. It's not because I think it is wrong or irresponsible to use a alias or handle online. Rather, it's because in a place as small as U-City I see little value in trying to hide your identity. I respect those who choose to use only their first names. Certainly, I understand not everyone wants to be google-able for safety and privacy reasons. I wonder how comments made under alias' really contribute to the goal of actively working together to positively impact our community, a goal which everyone here does seem to share. To me, the online world is a part of the real world and our interactions here could (and should, in my opinion) easily translate into face-to-face discussions. I think we have to understand, however, that the Patch is not responsible for making sure that this kind of dialogue happens. Anonymous letters to the editor are published everyday, right? We have to respect that. Patch comments are not the same thing. They present a gray area between the traditional LTE and online posts that is still being negotiated. I think of the Patch comments as more akin to a group of citizens having a discussion of a print news source in a coffee shop. The publisher is no longer responsible for the discourse. But in a coffee shop we could talk face to face, share our real identity and get to know each other as people. That usually helps keep things civil.
Barry April 07, 2011 at 04:17 PM
This issue of whether one uses their full name, first name, last name or a pseudonym is irrelevant. I see no more validity to someone who uses their first name, whether I know their identity or not. This is a public forum for readers to express their opinions. I also think the Patch has to be very, very careful in how it removes comments. If the only criteria is whether a complaint was received and not whether the complaint was in violation of any posting policy, we will be heading down a slippery slope. Does this mean I can complain about any comment which I find offensive and have it removed? If we go that route, we'll have no comments left. While I have found many comments on various articles in the Patch extremely offensive and personal in nature, I nonetheless respect the right of the person to post them. The decision as to whether a post violates Patch rules should fall solely to the moderator, who in this case is Myra. I'm more than willing, as I assume that most of us are, to have her decide when a post has crossed the line, regardless of whether a complaint has been filed with Myra, AOL, or anyone else. If she deems that a post does not meet the guidelines, it should be removed. If it does not violate any of the posting policies, it should remain. Myra, as much as I understand that you do not want this role, it is part of the responsibility of a moderator. I would hope that in the future you will not remove posts merely because there was a complaint.
Holston Black Jr. April 07, 2011 at 08:12 PM
Freedom of speech is a constitutional right and equal to(and in some minds greater) is the right to vote. Try and use a pseudonym when casting a vote. I don't expect some people who have not walked in my shoes to understand what we African Americans have gone through with groups like the Ku Klux Klan. It's easy to forget, if you ever knew the atrocities that were meted out by men who hid their identities under hoods and robes. Myra if someone using a pseudonym wrote in to you or AOL would their complaint be taken seriously? If so why? They could be a 9 year old or someone else who doesn't meet the criteria of Patch.
Myra Lopez April 07, 2011 at 08:26 PM
Mr. Black, the complaints that were removed were from real people because I either spoke with them on the phone or had an email exchange. At this point I kind of know who people are. I can say that I'm familiar with all the parties that were involved in the removals. I've encountered hackers and people I believe are teens and I've dealt with them. I take Patch one day at a time. I'm sure the 9-year-old scenario will probably occur one day and I will deal with it. Thanks. Myra
Barry April 07, 2011 at 11:25 PM
Myra, to answer Mr. Black's question, I don't think it is relevant at all whether the complainant is 9 or 90, black or white, rich or poor, named or anonymous. If the post violates Patch guidelines, it should be taken down regardless of whether a complaint is registered or not. Conversely, if a post does not violate guidelines, it should not be removed regardless of whether a complaint is made. Removal of a post has to be based upon a set of rules, not a particular individual's sensitivity to criticism. Since you are the moderator, it is up to you to be the judge and jury as to what is acceptable and what is not.
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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