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Mayor Shelley Welsch writes letter of Reprimand to Byron Price

Feb. 22, 2010  UniversityCityPatch (read Comments)  •     Feb. 14, 2011 Regular Council Meeting (audio available)  

Mayor Shelley Welsch

            6801 Delmar Boulevard, University City, MO 63130-3104

February 17, 2011

Councilmember Byron Price
1520 780 Street
University City, MO 63130

Councilmember Price,

I am writing to express my grave concerns about your bullying and disorderly behavior at the meeting of the City Council on Monday, February 14, 2011.

As you know, and as I reiterated in my letter to you of October 13, 2010, under the terms of the City Charter, the City Council has the authority to set up its own Rules of Order and Procedure and to discipline members of the Council for disorderly behavior.

Specifically, on Monday evening you:

• Refused to accede to my ruling that you were Out of Order;

• Defamed City Manager Lehman Walker;

• Spoke in a bullying fashion to the Director of Community Development Andrea Riganti and other members of the Council;

• Refused to limit your comments to the timeframe specified in the Council rules, even after my advising you of the need to do so;

• Questioned the City Manager repeatedly while not providing him with sufficient time to respond;

• Verbally attacked Councilmember Kraft on three separate occasions;

• Verbally attacked me and my office;

• Became physically menacing to Councilmembers by rising from your chair and shaking your index finger in their faces;

• Impugned the reputation of other members of Council by stating that they had contravened the Sunshine Law;

• Repeated information to the audience that you knew to be inaccurate, thereby misinforming residents of our community.

This conduct will not be tolerated by this current Council or by me as the Presiding Officer of the Council.

I am also concerned that your behavior is putting the City of University City and you personally at risk for a defamation lawsuit.

The City Attorney has been consulted and has provided his legal opinion to the City Manager stating:

"...Statements about an individual's job performance, if published, could raise insurance issues with respect to the (Councilmember) if sued in his or her official capacity. Courts have held that such statements may be slanderous per se, subject to absolute or qualified privileges. See Nazeri v. Missouri Valley College, 860 S.W.2d 303, 311 (Mo. 1993)(alleged remarks accusing public official of lack of skill and fitness to perform her official duties were slanderous per se under traditional defamation law); and Williams v. School Dist. of Springfield R-12, 447 S.W.2d 256, 268-269(Mo. 1969)(words that teacher disobeyed rules and regulations, was insubordinate, and was insufficient and inadequate with her students were slanderous per se, for they tend to injure her in her vocation or profession); see also Fortner v. City of Archie, 70 F. Supp. 2d 1028.D. Mo. 1999)(city employee denied a raise by aldermen because she was a married woman brought civil rights lawsuit, and court held that while aldermen are given legislative immunity for statements while performing legislative acts, when the facts used to make a decision relate to a particular individual and the decision impacts a specific individual or singles out a specific individual, the decision is administrative). Publicly criticizing individual employees could result in lawsuits against the speaker and the (city)."

To repeat: your conduct is placing you as an individual and the City of University City at legal risk.

I am considering recommending to the Council that we pass a resolution of reprimand for your disorderly conduct on February 14, 2011. If such a resolution is passed, and if such conduct continues, I will recommend we proceed with further disciplinary action for disorderly behavior as per Section 9 of the City Charter and for malfeasance as per Section 6 of the City Charter.



Mayor Shelley Welsch


cc: City Council City Manager

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• • Paulette Carr, Ward 2 Councilmember, City of University City
• University City, Missouri 63130 •