Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Northeast Fire Board Doles out Severances; Harsh Critic of District Policies Provides Swing Vote to Pay out More Than $780,000 to Lawyers, Chief; New Member Votes No [Corrected 10/20/15]

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Northeast Fire Board Doles out Severances; Harsh Critic of District Policies Provides Swing Vote to Pay out More Than $780,000 to Lawyers, Chief; New Member Votes No [Corrected 10/20/15]

Article excerpt

BEVERLY HILLS - Tempers flared and a fracas erupted after an emergency meeting of the Northeast fire district board on Sunday at which the board voted to pay its controversial attorneys and fire chief severance packages totaling more than $780,000.

The settlements left some at the meeting speechless and others fuming. Before the building emptied, three of those in attendance, including state Rep. Don Calloway Jr., D-Bel-Nor, were taken away in handcuffs.

Beverly Hills police charged Calloway with second-degree robbery after he grabbed a district checkbook to determine which bank the severance payments were to be taken from, Calloway told the Post- Dispatch. District resident Patricia Gaddess and a Northeast employee's mother, Rowena Neierda, also were arrested and held at the Police Department for nearly three hours. Both were involved in a fracas that ensued after Calloway tossed the checkbook to someone near the door, but neither was charged with any crime.

About 50 residents of the Northeast Ambulance and Fire Protection District attended the emergency meeting Sunday afternoon, expecting that the district's newly configured board would fire attorneys Elbert Walton Jr. and Bernard Edwards Jr. On Thursday, a St. Louis County judge named Bridget Quinlisk-Dailey to the three-member board. Board members Rhea Willis and Roberts Edwards had been at extreme odds since early October, so Quinlisk-Dailey's appointment was expected to allow not only for a tie-breaker, but for the firings of the board's attorneys and fire chief.

But Sunday's events came as a surprise. Walton, Bernard Edwards Jr. and Chief Joe Washington agreed to walk away from Northeast if they received severance packages. Willis and Robert Edwards voted to approve the settlements, and Quinlisk-Dailey voted against them.

Walton's agreement was for $190,000, in addition to bills he had submitted for payment from the district. Edwards' agreement was for $90,000, also with payment of bills he has submitted.

The district's funds were frozen Oct. 20 with a restraining order. A judge ruled Thursday that the preliminary injunction keeping them frozen would be dissolved if the board agreed on district expenditures with a majority vote. That appears to have happened Sunday.

In the three weeks after the order took effect, Walton submitted bills for at least $32,635, and Edwards for at least $19,000, according to district records filed in court. The Post-Dispatch could not determine Sunday night the total for legal bills submitted since Oct. 20.

Washington's agreement, according to the resolution approved Sunday, says the district is to pay him a lump sum of $450,000. It also says the district is to defend him against any legal action "whether meritorious, groundless or otherwise arising out of an alleged act or omission occurring in the performance of his duties as fire chief," and that it shall pay any settlements, judgments or legal fees that result. …

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