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A group of concerned citizens in Springfield is calling on Springfield’s city manager, Greg Burris, to resign. The group is alleging that Burris behaved unethically during this month’s city election. Burris, however, maintains he did nothing wrong. KSMU’s Jennifer Moore reports.
The group, called the Save our Springfield Coalition, or SOS, announced last week that it believes Burris wrongly took a proactive role in the city council election when he forwarded an email conversation he received between city council candidates Fred Ellison and Tom Martz on to the president of the Firefighter’s Union.
The email detailed the two candidates' thoughts on controversial benefits within the Police and Fire Pension Plan.
The city faces a severe budget shortfall when it comes to funding the plan.
Darin Chappell is a spokesman for the citizen group SOS. He says according to the ICMA—the International City/County Management Association—there’s a code of ethics consisting of several tenets which all city managers are to abide by.
"Tenet number seven is that the city manager is not to insert himself in a political way into any political activity, most specifically not into the hiring board, which would, in this case, be Springfield City Council," Chappell said.
Chappell, who’s also a per-course faculty instructor of political science at MSU, made it clear he’s speaking only as a private citizen and not on behalf of the university, nor of the department.
He says Burris forwarded the email on to the president of the Firefighter’s Union, and that it resulted in opposition against Martz and Ellison.
"What that is is Mr. Burris inserting his position and his opinion about what's important and what's not regarding the election. And he, just simply, as a city manager, does not have the ethical right to do that," Chappell said.
The Firefighters’ Union ultimately endorsed the opponents of Martz and Ellison: Robert Stephens and John Rush, each of whom won by less than five percent of the votes cast.
City Manager Greg Burris has responded to SOS’s call by issuing a statement, calling the group’s position “disappointing.”
He says the email the SOS group is citing was copied to several people, including a public official, and that he knew it would be an open record under Missouri’s Sunshine Law.
Burris added in the statement that he simply forwarded it to the appropriate staff members who were involved in the police-fire pension tax proposal as an "FYI," to let them know of points that may come up in "presentations or elsewhere."
Lastly, Burris said he has respected the SOS group in the past by forwarding its proposal to solve the pension funding problem on to the Citizen Task Force for review.
Rush and Stephens are scheduled to officially become council members at the City Council luncheon Tuesday.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.