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The Lake News Online
  • Fireworks continue as commissioners' bickering intensifies

  • The Fourth of July holiday may be over but the fireworks continue at the Camden County Courthouse. During what could have been a routine commission meeting, a heated discussion between Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken and Associate Commissioner Cliff Luber escalated into a shouting match over emails, fees and other assorted issues.
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    • The issues:

      Among the most contentious issues debated at the July 10 meeting of the Camden County Commission were:
      1. Luber's accessing and sorting through Franken's email. Franken alleges he did not g...

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      The issues:

      Among the most contentious issues debated at the July 10 meeting of the Camden County Commission were:

      1. Luber's accessing and sorting through Franken's email. Franken alleges he did not give Luber permission.

      2. Luber's allegation that Franken overextends his authority

      3. Allegations of preferential treatment

      4. Accusations that sensitive county business, including personnel information has been shared with members of the community and a political action committee.

      5. Allegations that county employees and some outside the courthouse are receiving emails from one commissioner regarding actions of the commission.

  • The Fourth of July holiday may be over but the fireworks continue at the Camden County Courthouse. During what could have been a routine commission meeting, a heated discussion between Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken and Associate Commissioner Cliff Luber escalated into a shouting match over emails, fees and other assorted issues.
    The Thursday, July 10 meeting was a clear example of the complete breakdown of the working relationship between the two elected officials who are supposed to be working together to move the county forward.
    The meeting started out innocently enough with only two items on the agenda; a property sale bid and an item listed as Theresa Townsend/fees.
    After approving a property sale bid, the commission moved on to the next agenda item: Theresa Townsend/fees.
    Camden County business owner Theresa Townsend was placed on the July 10 agenda to address fees assessed through the planning and zoning office. Townsend says — among other allegations — her Sunrise Beach business was unfairly charged twice through P&Z. 
    She asked the commission to provide justification for why her business was charged twice. Franken indicated he would speak once Townsend had finished her remarks.
    Townsend read a prepared statement, indicating her frustration with what she called a situation that has been going on for 13 months. She alleged the commission has played favorites in regards to P&Z fees.
    When Townsend completed her statement, she asked for discussion with the commissioners about the double fee. Franken said the issue was not up for discussion, an assertion Townsend debated. Townsend was placed as an agenda item, not part of the standard public comment portion usually held at the beginning of commission meetings. Agenda items are usually discussed during public meeting.
    At the conclusion of her statement, Townsend alleged, “you are discriminating against a registered American Indian woman doing business in your state.”
    Townsend again asked for discussion. Franken did not engage in discussion. As Townsend continued to press the issue, Franken warned her that if she did not comply, she would be escorted out of the meeting. As Townsend continued to speak, Franken requested a deputy escort her from the meeting. 
    As Townsend asked for justification, Franken responded, “because you are not complying with the rules of order.”
    “You have just violated my civil rights,” Townsend countered as she exited the meeting.
    As Townsend was escorted from the meeting, Franken said he wanted the following noted in the meeting minutes: “Ms. Townsend started an illegal building addition on her building that began this entire process… she was not the only person that was double feed last year.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Following Townsend's removal, Luber addressed her remarks. He then pulled out a stack of documents and some handwritten notes to address various issues. He began to speak about Townsend's planning and zoning issue and went on to accuse Franken of overstepping his boundaries and of sending county information out to residents in a political action committee without research fees associated with the Missouri Sunshine Law.
    It was during the discussion that Franken learned Luber had been going through his emails. Luber said Franken gave him permission to do so during the June 24 commission meeting after Townsend had made a Missouri Sunshine Law request for Franken's emails from June 2013 through July 2014. She was required to pay a $250 deposit before the county would start processing her request. According to information provided by the county, the $250 fee was paid by a second party on behalf of Townsend.
    During the June 24 meeting, Luber asked if he could do the redaction of the requested emails — a task normally performed by the county clerk's office with assistance from the IT department.
    Luber's request was initially agreed upon by Associated Commissioner Bev Thomas and Franken until Townsend asked if the county would change the fee or provide the documents for free since Luber was going to do the work.  Franken then told Luber that he would not agree to him redacting the emails.
    When Franken realized during Thursday's meeting Luber was going through his emails without his approval anyway and sharing information from them in the meeting Thursday, tensions rose and both parties began to raise their voices. The two went back and forth, bringing up a number of issues before the meeting abruptly ended when Franken adjourned the meeting without a second to the motion.
    "Productive coversation with you does not exist," Franken said to Luber.
    "Exactly, sure. There you go," Luber replied.
     
    In their words:
     
    In response to the commission meeting, the Lake Sun asked Luber and Franken "to explain to the people of Camden County your behavior during the commission meeting?"
    The commissioners were asked to keep their responses to 200 words. The commissioners responses are being ran in the order their responses were received.
     
    Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken:
    “Commissioner Luber obtained unauthorized access to my email account to allegedly produce documents for a Sunshine request for Theresa Townsend.  In order to initiate the Sunshine request, Townsend was to make a $250.00 deposit.  This never occurred, so his reasoning for having my emails was false. I plainly told Commissioner Luber that I would not authorize his access to my account.  Not only did Commissioner Luber gain the access to my account, but he then decided to begin to disclose the nature of the emails on the record.  If Commissioner Luber were a County employee, this would be an offense that would result in the termination of his employment.  My emails are always available through a properly executed Sunshine request, and proper protocols are followed.  This keeps us aware of who is requesting records, and it is the law.  This is simply the furthering of Commissioner Luber’s overt campaigning for his candidate for Presiding Commissioner, Greg Hasty, on the County record.  My actions were nothing more than an attempt to defend myself against Commissioner Luber’s constant onslaught of unsubstantiated accusations and inaccurate depictions of what actually occurs in our office.”
    Page 3 of 3 -  
    Associate Commissioner Cliff Luber:
    “Theresa Townsend was on the commission agenda regarding fees for her Sunshine Law request for Kris Frankens’ emails. He required her to submit a $250 deposit, which she did several weeks ago. Franken had arranged for a deputy to be in the commission meeting room. He refused to speak with Townsend and had her removed by the deputy. She had done absolutely nothing to warrant removal. Despite the fact that Franken has provided information to his supporters and members of his PAC for free, Mrs. Townsend was not given the same consideration.  Franken consistently operates as a Government of One and says openly that he doesn’t need to confer with the other ccommissioners. He has waived fees, allowed fees to go unpaid for months,  and attempted to lower fees for select individuals without the knowledge of the Commission. As the Second District Commissioner, I have the responsibility to ensure ALL citizens are being treated the same. The cronyism and secrecy perpetrated by Franken must stop.”
     
     
    Franken said in his response that a reporter from the Lake Sun was present during a previous discussion when Franken told Luber he would not authorize his accessing his email.
    It should be noted the commission agenda for July 10 listed Teresa Townsend/fees. It did not state if those were related to planning and or a Missouri Sunshine Law request filed a number of weeks ago.
    Townsend did not address the commission specifically about the fees for the Missouri Sunshine Law request. County officials estimated Townsend's request could be in excess of $1,000. The Missouri Attorney General's office, who handles violations of the Missouri Sunshine Law supported the county's request for a deposit. She addressed complaints she has filed with the state against Camden County for alleged violations.
     
    To hear the audio of the meeting visit www.camdenmo.org.
    Editor's note: Associate Commissioner Bev Thomas did not attend the meeting. She is out on recovery leave following surgery.

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