Judge hears suspended Ashland alderman's case

Suspended Ashland alderman Jeff Anderson was in court today to determine whether his suspension was legal. Ashland's Board of Aldermen suspended him on Sept. 16.

A Boone County judge must decide whether an alderman's suspension constitutes a removal from office.

A lawyer for suspended Ashland alderman Jeff Anderson testified Monday morning the Ashland Board of Aldermen suspended him without due process at a Sept. 16 meeting. Chip Gentry said Anderson has not been permitted to attend any board meetings since the suspension vote and he has been blocked from his city email account, which prevents him from representing residents of Ashland's 2nd Ward. Gentry claimed the city violated its own city code as well as state law by suspending Anderson prior to an impeachment hearing. An impeachment hearing is tentatively set for Nov. 11.

"At this point in time, by reportedly suspending or attempting to suspend Alderman Anderson and preventing him from fulfilling his obligations, Ward 2 is not fully represented," Gentry said. So I think any meetings that they've had, any business that they've conducted, ought to be nullified."

David Bandre, who is serving as the city's special prosecutor for the impeachment proceeding and also represented mayor Gene Rhorer at Monday's hearing, said the decision to suspend Anderson is not the same as removing him from office. He cited a Missouri Supreme Court ruling that said the power to remove an elected official from office "includes a minor power to suspend." Bandre noted Anderson was not present at the meeting at which the board voted to suspend him. Anderson told KRCG 13 on Sunday he had a scheduling conflict did not have enough time to change his plans after the meeting notice was posted.

"I think that case law has interpreted that statute to say that suspension is appropriate and permissible in certain cases prior to going through the impeachment process," Bandre said.

Judge Gary Oxenhandler's office told KRCG 13 Oxenhandler probably would not issue a ruling Monday due to a full court docket but could not speculate on when a ruling might come down.