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As Ellisville's new council settles in, Paul announces lawsuits

In Backroom

11:21 pm on Wed, 04.17.13

Former Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul promised earlier this month that he would go to a "real court" to try and get his job back.

Paul proved true to his word.

Paul told the Ellisville City Council on Wednesday that he had filed a defamation lawsuit against Ellisville city attorney Paul Martin, Councilman Matt Pirrello, City Manager Kevin Bookout and Katie James.  He also said he had filed another suit aimed at getting reinstated.

Former Ellsville Mayor Adam Paul talks with reporters after Wednesday's Ellisville City Council meeting.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Beacon
Former Ellsville Mayor Adam Paul talks with reporters after Wednesday's Ellisville City Council meeting.

“The damage has been done,” Paul said. “I don’t like to sue anybody. I don’t like to get lawsuits involved. But Abraham Lincoln said it best: ‘You’ve got to put your feet in the right position and stand firm.”

The city’s council voted earlier this month to remove Paul from office. The former mayor’s detractors accused Paul of misusing his power with city employees, such as asking the police chief if the mayor gets a badge and a gun. Among other things, opponents also objected to Paul's actions to order police to remove two residents from a council meeting. 

But the former mayor contended the real issue is his opposition to tax breaks for a planned Wal-Mart. He contended the entire impeachment saga was a scheme to replace a mayor who opposed tax increment financing with somebody more amenable to the incentives.

“I love Isaac Newton’s quote ‘for every action, there’s an equal but opposite reaction,’” Paul said. “And I think that tonight I finally gave them that reaction."

Matt Pirrello
Matt Pirrello

Pirrello told reporters after the meeting that the lawsuits weren't shocking. He said both Paul and his attorney Chet Pleban had made it “perfectly clear that they had full intentions of suing everybody for every reason that they can find.”

“I fully expected this to happen because Mr. Pleban and Mr. Paul both promised me that they would sue me,” Pirrello said. “In a court of law, I never know what’s going to happen. I will say that everything that I did, I did in the process of conducting business for the city.”

Council holds off on appointing replacement

Wednesday's meeting was the first for three newly elected members of the Ellisville City Council. The new councilmembers -- Gary Voss, Mick Cahill and Cindy Pool -- were sworn in before Paul made his announcement.

And one of the new council's first moves was deciding to hold a special election to fill out the rest of Paul's term.

Three new members of the Ellisville City Council are sworn into office.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Beacon
Three new members of the Ellisville City Council are sworn into office.

Pirrello had previously indicated that the newly composed council would select Paul’s replacement at Wednesday's meeting. But several residents pointed to a provision within the city’s charter stating:

“Any vacancy in the council, whether the mayor or another council member, shall be filled by the council by a majority vote of all its remaining members for a period running to the next regularly scheduled council election unless such period exceeds one year. In the latter case, the council shall make arrangements for a special election to fill such vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term.”

“The balance of Mayor Adam Paul’s term – which would have ended April 2015 – is greater than a year,” said Ellisville resident Elizabeth Schmidt. “The time until the next election – which is also April 2015 – is greater than a year. So that latter part of the section applies.

“You don’t need to be an attorney to count to 366 to realize that the period for the date of Adam Paul’s removal from office until 2015 is greater than 365 days,” she added.

The council then voted unanimously to direct the city’s staff to figure out a day for a special election.

While emphasizing that he was only speaking for himself, Pirrello added, “I would say that if the lawsuits had any merit and there seems to be any weight to reinstatement, I would say that we would probably do the city a disservice to rush into a special election.

“That being said, the process will really have nothing to do with Adam Paul’s lawsuits that he spoke of this evening,” Pirrello said. “And have more to do with the court’s review of our hearing. And that’s really our process is starting.”

Asked what would happen if the city elected a new mayor before his lawsuit was settled, Paul said, “I think they have the cart before the horse.”

“If we do call a special election and a mayor gets hired and the judge rules in favor of me, is that mayor going to sue to get his seat back?” Paul said. “Either way, with the direction our city is going, if they did hire a mayor – and God forbid, I don’t get my seat back – I guarantee whoever they vote in I’ll be just as happy sitting on the sidelines.

“Because I guarantee you that person that runs will be just like two of the three council members that were voted in,” he added, referring to the fact that Voss and Cahill are his allies.

Murray offers emotional rebuke of her critics

Perhaps the most dramatic point of the evening came at the beginning of the council meeting. That's when departing Councilwoman Michelle Murray gave a stinging – and at times emotionally charged – rebuke to critics of the council and city staff.

Departing Ellisville Councilwoman Michelle Murray gave an emotional speech before her replacement was sworn in. The above video shows most of her remarks.

Murray was one of the five council members who voted to remove Paul from office earlier this month. In 2012, she was one of three candidates Paul defeated to become mayor.

Shortly after receiving a plaque honoring her tenure in office, Murray said, “The things that have been said about the council members and our staff have been wholly inappropriate and undeserving.

“If you feel so strongly in your comments, you run for public office,” Murray said. “And you take this kind of criticism. You do this. OK? These people do not deserve the kind of comments that have been leveled at them. Nor do I.”

Right after she made that statement, Pirrello thanked Murray. She then replied, “No, I’m not done – I’m sorry you’re going to have to let me do this.”

After expressing “love” for Ellisville, she went onto say: “I’m sorry to say that I cannot express with any deeper emotion how much I’d love to move. I do not want to live in this city anymore. And I hope to do that some time soon.

“I got an e-mail from somebody yesterday saying I was a disgrace and a horrible person – from somebody that’s never met me,” Murray said. “And I find that disgraceful. Folks, going forward, whoever is serving you in office, they deserve more respect than what you’ve afforded this council.”

While Paul said he wasn't moved by Murray's remarks, Pirrello took a different view. He said that he “admired that Councilmember Murray felt so passionate about making some of the statements that she did.”

“The fact of the matter is, we do put our blood, sweat and tears into this,” Pirrello said. “We all try to do what’s in the best interest of the city. And in doing so, sometimes we fall short. We’re only human.”

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