Belleville City Clerk Dallas Cook on Monday night immediately adjourned a special City Council meeting because of a lack of a quorum to discuss whether St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly should be asked to investigate Mayor Mark Eckert and his administration’s handling of the Lindenwood University-Belleville student housing issue.
Seven aldermen appeared for the 7 p.m. meeting while nine did not. Eckert also did not appear.
Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner, who lives next to Lindenwood students near the West Main Street campus, called for the special meeting.
Eckert said he was sick and could not attend the meeting. He said he would comment on Buettner’s request for discussion of calling for an outside investigation after the City Council votes on the Lindenwood student housing plan. Eckert expects the issue to be on the agenda for the Nov. 2 City Council meeting. The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to hear the case at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
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“Everybody knew this was going to come and then have nine of these people not show and the mayor calls in sick today. That’s ridiculous,” Buettner said.
Ward 2 Alderwoman Janet Schmidt, who represents the Lindenwood neighborhoods along with Buettner, said she had a prior engagement and could not attend Monday night’s meeting.
Schmidt said the allegations against Eckert are “just completely unfounded.”
“I don’t think the mayor’s done anything other than look out for the good of the city,” Schmidt said.
Along with Buettner, the aldermen who showed up for the Monday night meeting were Ward 3 Alderman Kent Randle, Ward 3 Alderman Scott Tyler, Ward 4 Alderman Raffi Ovian, Ward 6 Alderman Bob White, Ward 7 Alderman Trent Galetti and Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore.
Last week, six of these aldermen opposed a TIF plan supported by Eckert. White was absent from the meeting when aldermen voted 8-7 to give TIF funding to a downtown business.
Along with Schmidt, the other absent council members were: Ward 1 Alderman Ken Kinsella, Ward 1 Alderman Joe Hazel, Ward 4 Alderman Johnnie Anthony, Ward 5 Alderman Phillip Silsby, Ward 5 Alderman Ed Dintelman, Ward 6 Alderman Paul Seibert, Ward 8 Alderman James Musgrove and Ward 8 Alderman Roger Wigginton.
All but one of these aldermen supported the TIF plan last week. Wigginton voted against it.
On Oct. 19, Buettner asked for aldermen to attend the special City Council meeting.
White and Galetti joined with Buettner in calling for the special meeting on Monday. If the mayor doesn’t call for a meeting, then three aldermen can request one.
Buettner wanted the council to discuss whether Kelly should be called to investigate the city’s failure to take action regarding houses occupied for years without special-use permits. He also is concerned about the city’s liability if a “tragedy” occurred at one of the Lindenwood homes.
Last week, City Attorney Garrett Hoerner finished a report on how the city handled the Lindenwood housing case. On Oct. 5, Buettner asked for Hoerner to investigate the issue.
Buettner said he couldn’t release Hoerner’s report because of attorney-client privilege. Eckert also declined to release it, but he said he believes “all the questions have been answered.”
Buettner said if Eckert doesn’t release Hoerner’s report, then he will make a motion asking the City Council to release it.
Residents who live near the campus have complained to aldermen about the number of students who live in their neighborhoods.