The Fulnecky Files
Springfield, Missouri has a problem on City Council. Kristi Fulnecky has failed to impress citizens, to the point that an official Recall Fulnecky effort has been launched. Please feel free to click the link to hear her voice clips and see the continually growing body of evidence that supports she does not belong on City Council or representing the citizens of Springfield, MO.
Because hell hath no fury like an incompetent attorney scorned, she has now threatened to sue citizens for reporting her to a state agency so that experts could discern for themselves if she is guilty of pass through fraud. She doesn't mention that one of the citizens (yours truly) is also leading the recall movement. If it looks like retaliation, sounds like retaliation and quacks like retaliation... well, what we have here is a fine case of retaliation.
We'll take a moment to go through this point by point, but first you need to read the document yourself. This is an email that was sent in reply to a complaint a citizen sent to City Council. I had nothing to do with this email, but the reply to all of Council and key city employees mentioned me by name.
First, please note that Fulnecky says she did not know she was part of their project until "well after our vote" but upon reading the rest of the attached complaint against her, that seems unlikely. The complaint points out that the ordinance was first brought before Council on July 27th, voted on August 10th and the MHDC (Missouri Housing Devlopment Commission) paperwork was due September 5th. It is hard for me to believe that sometime between her applauding them on August 10th that she was brought on "well after" but still in time to file the paperwork. It just doesn't add up. I cannot speak to the accuracy of the claim raised by this citizen, but it makes sense and Fulnecky does not offer any proof of her discussion with our city attorney at that time.
I find it curious that she threatens to sue citizens and then claims that she has been intimidated and silenced. I cannot think of a single time that Fulnecky has been silenced, and would challenge her to provide examples. Even as she tries to intimidate and silence those who have simply taken evidence and provided it to the experts for investigation.
Fulnecky further states that "all complaints have been dismissed as not having merit." Despite her offer to answer questions, she did not answer an email asking for her to supply proof that this complaint has been resolved. Correspondence as late as March indicated that this investigation for pass through fraud is still pending. Of course, she has problems reading email so there is as chance she just never saw the request for this information.
She then says she has "seen the former mayor and members of the Public Information Office socializing with Bon Tindle" like that is illegal. So let's clear some of that right up, shall we? As a journalist who reports on city issues, the mayor at the time (Bob Stephens) was transparent and open and met with me to answer questions I had about the charter and how it applied to circumstances that came up at Council meetings. That isn't illegal, it's good government and builds trust with the press and gets accurate information out to the citizens.
As a concerned citizen journalist who works as an advocate for homeless, unemployed, or otherwise struggling citizens, it didn't take long for the Public Information Office to reach out to me to establish communication. I was able to ask questions about different programs, what was coming, and learn what obstacles and advantages went into the issues that our citizens want resolved. The Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement has met with me at City Hall, talked by email at all hours of the day and night, returned my phone calls without fail and answered all my questions quickly and with great detail. Civic Engagement is literally part of her job title, and she is tasked with working with citizens like myself who want to know more about what the city is doing. It took a great many talks to bring me up to speed. This is not unethical in any way. It's what she is supposed to do. Others from similar positions at City Hall have cooperated with my requests and answered many a last minute fact check.
Mayor Bob and I became friends as we met to discuss my questions. As a public servant, there is absolutely nothing barring him from having friends in the community. He taught me a great many things about the city charter and writing itself, and anyone who knows him will confirm that he is a fountain of random information. I still think a great deal of him and have no problems saying that publicly. Our friendship led to my invitation to some of his social events, such as his birthday parties and his retirement party. I spoke at his retirement party as a friend, and people like the Director of the PIO was there as a coworker sad to see him leave office. The fact that we took some selfies and chatted has no bearing on our professional relationship.
But she wanted everyone on City Council to know she was watching. It's completely inappropriate for someone who is a public servant to have this much interest in perfectly legitimate events in a citizen's life. Fulnecky is blocked from my social media, so it was not accident or happenstance that she saw photographs of me at social events. This is what intimidation and silencing looks like. "I'm considering suing her, I sure hope I don't see you hanging out with her" is an attempt to threaten and intimidate for actions that are in every way aboveboard. As representatives of the public, it is a Council's job to consider public input. Through small private chats, I have been able to assist with projects, ask questions and run ideas by Council to see what issues I may be overlooking on any given topic. This education and trial by fire has made me a better journalist, and given me a better understanding of how local government runs.
Now let's talk the libel and slander portion. Though she is apparently an attorney, her inability to understand is embarrassing but unexpected.
From the Digital Media Law Project:
In order to recover for defamation, a public official/figure is required to show that the defendant acted with actual malice. Actual malice requires a showing that the libelous statements were published with actual knowledge of falsity or in reckless disregard as to whether the statement as true or not. The Missouri Supreme Court has equated recklessness with disregard of the truth with subjective awareness of probable falsity. There must be sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that the defendant in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of his publication. Glover v. Herald Co. 549 S.W.2d 858, 862 (Mo. 1977) (en banc).
To let the paper and other sources investigate without interference, the original complaint was never published (to my knowledge). Since Fulnecky simply is not bright enough to realize her accusation prompts me to do just that, below is the report to which I signed my name [removed at the request of the original person who brought it to my attention]. That way the entire world can see for themselves, and realize that I not only exceeded the libel bar, but have some pretty interesting information accumulated. Please keep in mind that the supporting documents were collected legally, using Sunshine Law requests and publicly available resources. It was brought to me by a source who had read my writing and was afraid of retaliation from Fulnecky (gee, I cannot imagine why!). I did my due diligence and decided there was plenty of evidence to warrant sending it to the proper agency so they could determine if it was truly pass through fraud, or just really looked like it. That is how I came by the information, and how I became part of the investigation, because I signed my name to the evidence and furnished the proof. The investigation was moved from the Office of Equal Opportunity to the Missouri Housing Development Commission, where it is still pending to the best of our knowledge.