Elected officials blasted for not attending Laquey protest meeting
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 5:02 pm
LAQUEY, Mo. (May 11, 2010) — While Capt. Bill Anderson of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department and prosecutor candidate Jeff Thomas received considerable support from angry people at Thursday’s Laquey meeting protesting rampant crime in Pulaski County, the county’s elected officials came in for stiff criticism for nonattendance.
“I’d like to thank some media for showing up. We have a representative from our county sheriff’s department going to show; he’s running late; we’re supposed to have a couple of commissioners; I don’t see them. That’s how important we are out here in Laquey, Missouri,” said event organizer Steve Cox. “We need to change something down at that county courthouse … maybe we can get some help, maybe they might hear about it downtown and start making some changes.”
Cox repeatedly criticized the county’s elected officials, but singled out Anderson for praise; others said he’d “gained a hundred votes” by coming to the meeting.
Anderson was a candidate in the 2008 Democratic Party primary for sheriff but lost to former Sheriff J.T. Roberts who had held the job for years until he was defeated by King in 2004. Roberts then narrowly lost to King and has only recently dropped a court case seeking to overturn the November 2008 general election.
“I look out here and I see one county official who thought we were worth their time. One guy,” Cox said. “And I don’t particularly care for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department. I’ve met very few professionals in the last couple of weeks; Bill happens to be one of them. He has thick skin and we appreciate him being here. A lot of others said they would be here, they didn’t show, we’re not worth the time.”
When asked Monday morning at the County Commission why they hadn’t attended, Presiding Commissioner Don McCulloch and Western District Commissioner Ricky Zweerink said they hadn’t planned to attend and didn’t think they’d been invited. Laquey isn’t part of the Eastern District served by Commissioner Bill Farnham.
McCulloch and Zweerink said they first learned about the Laquey meeting when Cox gave Zweerink a copy of a letter to Prosecuting Attorney Deborah Hooper alleging misconduct in the sheriff’s office, but didn’t interpret the letter as an invitation to attend the meeting.
“I also hear that it got so heated that some of them got to feeling sorry for Mr. Anderson,” Zweerink said. “Nobody ever even asked me.”
“Nor I,” added Farnham.
McCulloch, was previously the Waynesville chief of police and years ago was the county sheriff, said he didn’t see the issue as one that involved the commissioners.
“We might have been invited but I never had any intention of going; it’s not a commission problem,” McCulloch said.
“What authority do we have over the sheriff’s department?” Zweerink asked.
“I’ve read many statues and I don’t find anywhere we’re over the sheriff or any other officeholder,” McCulloch said. “It’s easy to go out there and point out who the bad person is who’s not getting the job done and then point the fingers at the commissioners … when they stand up and blame the commission, I’m going to stand up for the commission.”
Farnham, who has been a supporter of King since both were elected in 2004, agreed that it’s not the commission’s job to supervise the sheriff or handle complaints against his actions.
“A lot of people think the commissioners have authority over the other elected officials. The only thing we have authority over is the budget process; we can’t tell any elected officials how to run his or her office,” Farnham said. “We try to get along with them and hope they take our suggestions if we feel we’re right, but we can’t tell them how to run their office.”
While Zweerink said he didn’t want to intrude in the sheriff’s office, he said he would have been willing to listen to his Western District constituents’ concerns if he had known they wanted him present.
“They wanted to vent, and they vented,” Zweerink said. “I would have went if I’d been asked, but I wasn’t asked.”
“(Cox) met me in Crocker with this letter,” Zweerink said. “He was a reasonable man, he was upset, and he said ‘We’re going to have a meeting.’ I think he done a good job, myself.”