CLAY COUNTY — In a Facebook post read by hundreds Sunday, Nov. 24, and on a morning AM radio broadcast heard by many more Monday, Nov. 25, Presiding Clay County Commissioner Jerry Nolte called for the resignation of his fellow commissioners Gene Owen and Luann Ridgeway.
Nolte said Eastern Commissioner Ridgeway and Western Commissioner Owen are arrogant, ignore the voice of the people and have shattered the public’s trust with retaliatory attacks on law enforcement by way of gutting the sheriff’s budget, ongoing legal maneuvering to block the state audit, forcing the county to enter into more than $50 million in new debt for facilities like a new Annex and running up of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills.
In his Facebook post, accessible by searching “Jerry Nolte” on www.facebook.com, Nolte said the associate commissioners’ actions led to the sheriff’s lawsuit against the commission as by their 2-1 vote passage of an underfunded sheriff’s budget, the two refused to provide sufficient funds to feed and clothe jail detainees. In other 2-1 votes, Nolte said, the pair approved in executive session to give themselves back pay settlements of more than $60,000 each, voted to increase their salaries by about 18% and then inappropriately delegated “many of their official duties to unelected bureaucrats.”
“Their actions cast a dark shadow on Clay County, causing continuous embarrassment to our citizens and made our county a laughing stock across the state,” Nolte wrote Sunday on his Facebook page. “I do not call for their resignations lightly, but I believe Commissioner Ridgeway and Commissioner Owen have failed our citizens and do more damage to Clay County with each passing day.”
Nolte’s resignation request is not the first cast at the two associate commissioners. In the last week, Clay County audit lead petitioner Jason Withington also asked for the pair to step down, saying actions like letting the county get subpoenaed on multiple occasions during the audit process is not how professionals act.
“The citizens of Clay County agree that you both need to go,” he wrote in a letter to Ridgeway that was also sent to media Saturday, Nov. 23.
A request for comment to Owen was not returned.
Ridgeway said Nolte’s comments are another sad chapter in the county’s history of conflict and they “worsen the toxic environment that he fosters.”
“I remain hopeful that something very positive can come out of this. Constant controversy has plagued Clay County, which has led me to revisit the need for change in the form of county government. Just last week, the commission created a 12-person Constitutional Charter Advisory Board to fundamentally change our county government to a home-rule charter,” Luann wrote in an email to the Courier-Tribune Monday. “This transformation has proven successful in other first class Missouri counties. It serves to kick-start a process to hopefully obtain voter approval of a quality charter that will put our county on a positive path into the future.”