Police order move of prosecutor candidate's campaign truck; selective enforcement alleged
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Thursday, July 15, 2010 6:06 pm
Waynesville police ordered this truck with a campaign sign to be moved Thursday morning.
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (July 15, 2010) — When Jim and Barbara Thomas drove to the Pulaski County Courthouse on Thursday morning, they never expected they’d get a phone call from the Waynesville police dispatcher or find a Waynesville police tag on their vehicle ordering it to be moved. The Thomases had been in a white utility vehicle with a large campaign sign in the back for Jeff Thomas, the son of Jim Thomas who is running for the Republican nomination for Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney. Jeff Thomas, who was not in the vehicle and knew nothing about the incident until it was over, works in his father’s law practice, and is running against incumbent Prosecutor Deborah Hooper as well as St. Robert City Attorney Kevin Hillman, who is also the Waynesville Municipal Judge. The winner of that three-way race will face Democrat Wayne Gifford in the fall election. In his capacity as municipal judge, Hillman would need to decide whether Thomas violated city ordinances if the city police officers cite him and he chose to take the case to municipal court. Jim and Barb Thomas parked in a 30-minute parking spot directly outside the courthouse’s front door. However, the sign is badly faded and other signs in the area post a two-hour parking time limit. Not long after the Thomases left their vehicle, a Waynesville policeman pulled up, parked next to the Thomas’ vehicle, and posted a red warning notice on the driver’s side window specifying that it needed to be moved within 30 minutes. The policeman called his dispatcher, and the dispatcher called Jim Thomas. “(The Waynesville dispatcher) called me and said somebody complained that he saw me get out of the truck and get into my wife’s car,” Jim Thomas said. “She said they were posting it and I had 30 minutes to get it moved.” Thomas said he isn’t sure who made the complaint but would like to know, and said this isn’t the first complaint he’s received from the city of Waynesville. “We’ve had a sign up in Waynesville up by that little garage that Tommy Allen owns since the first day. Somebody told me that Waynesville took it off because one end was nailed to a Waynesville tree,” he said. Barbara Thomas said she’s not happy that her stepson’s campaign is being affected by what she called “selective enforcement” of ordinances against some candidates but not others. “As far as what I saw this morning when Jim parked there, I saw Don McCulloch’s black pickup truck with the sign for his campaign for presiding commissioner, and Deborah Hooper’s vehicle with her sign for prosecuting attorney,” she said. The policeman’s objection wasn’t just that the vehicles were parked in a limited-time parking spot but also that they had campaign signs on them. “The police officer advised us that we were only permitted to park there in the county parking lot since it was, quote, ‘Advertising,’” she said. “I noticed these two vehicles when we parked and when we picked it up. Those vehicles were not moved and to my knowledge they were not asked to be moved ... There was no posting of warnings on those vehicles. I looked for the warning to see if there was one posted on those vehicles that were parked in a two-hour zone and there was not.” Issuing tickets or warnings for overstaying the parking timeframes around the courthouse is unusual, though city leaders have complained in the past that downtown businesses are being hurt by county employees who park around the courthouse square rather than in nearby parking lots. “During my seven years at the courthouse there was a memo that went around to the office saying that if we were not parked in the designated parking area the city would start issuing citations. That was enforced for about one week,” said Barb Thomas, who was elected in 2002 as county treasurer and re-elected in 2006. She held that office until she resigned last year. “Do I think this was deliberately done against Jeff Thomas? My answer is definitely yes,” she said. “I’ve been in county politics for seven years and I know how it works and it’s definitely working to the advantage of Jeff’s opponent.” “I believe that if it applies to one, it should apply to all candidates,” she said. Click here to follow the Pulaski County Daily News on TwitterClick here to follow the Pulaski County Daily News on FacebookClick here to comment for local opinion