Presiding commissioner in Clay County calls for his counterparts to both resign

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LIBERTY, Mo. – The presiding Clay County commissioner says enough. After years of speaking out against his fellow two commissioners, he’s calling for their resignation.

On Saturday, Jerry Nolte called for the resignation of the other two people who sit on the county’s three-person commission, Luann Ridgeway and Gene Owen. Read Nolte’s full statement here.

FOX4 first told you about claims of corruption in Clay County in 2017. Nolte released a statement, in which he cited a long list of reasons, many of which FOX4 has told you about throughout our investigative coverage.

“A couple of the things that kind of brought matters to a head were the loss of the $280,000 in the drug task force money,” Nolte said.

“Then we have gotten a third subpoena from the state auditor,” he continued. “And it just got to the point where enough was enough, and we need to have some kind of a resolution of all these problems.”

This comes after years of claims of overspending and misuse of taxpayer dollars, including hundreds of thousands in outside legal fees, a $600 coffee maker, and the county footing the bill for the legal defense bills of a county employee charged with document tampering.

Nolte said he’s worried these incidents are coming more quickly and the damage is becoming more severe.

“One of the things that concerns me about the loss of the drug task force money (besides the obvious fact that we need that grant money to do our jobs) is the fact that it could affect other grants. The fact that we do not have our outside audit,” Nolte said.

“I am really concerned that Clay County could become looked upon as an unreliable partner when we group together with other political subdivisions to do things like task forces.”

If Ridgeway and Owen resign, Nolte said he wouldn’t expect it to happen right away.

“I don’t know that there’s an expectation that they would immediately resign,” he said. “I think that we need to just start having that conversation. If they do choose to resign, which I believe they should, I would like to see it happen in an orderly fashion. I think there has to be a determination that we need change.”

Those seats are up for election next November. If the pair was to resign, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson would appoint two new people to the county’s governing body.

“As close as we are to the election, it would kind of depend, but with the three-person body, we really need to have all three slots filled,” Nolte said. “Ultimately it will be up to the governor and then next November up to the voters.”

“People expect a certain amount of professionalism from their government, and the way it’s working right now, it doesn’t really deliver, I think, on what we should be delivering to the citizens of clay County, what they expect and what they deserve,” Nolte continued.

There is a commission meeting scheduled Tuesday. The sole agenda item is whether or not to add a charter commission (a 14-person commission) to the ballot for April’s election.

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