Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Dice Aldermen Reject Gaming Ordinance

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Dice Aldermen Reject Gaming Ordinance

Article excerpt

The Weldon Spring Board of Aldermen has unanimously rejected a proposal to give Bally's Missouri exclusive rights for at least six months to develop a gambling operation in the tiny city.

The vote Tuesday night followed a heated debate during which the board and mayor came under fire from some residents and former officials for holding a closed meeting on the subject Monday night.

Former Mayor Ron Griesenhauer said the board had acted inappropriately in listing its reasons for the closed session. Reasons given on the notice for holding a closed session included "pending litigation" and "personnel matters."

Those are two acceptable reasons for holding a closed meeting under the state's Open Meetings Law. But Griesenhauer said the reasons did not apply in this case.

Griesenhauer said the meeting constituted a blatant disregard for informing the public. "It smacks of back-room politics," he said.

A notice that the meeting was going to be held was posted Sunday.

Mayor Anita Foelsch, said no contracts were signed at Monday's meeting. She agreed that the meeting was hasty but not illegal.

At the meeting, Bally's offered to put $10,000 in an escrow account to cover the cost of an election April 5 on whether gambling should be allowed within Weldon Spring.

In exchange, Bally's wanted the city to agree to allow only one gambling operation in the city and to give Bally's exclusive rights to negotiate with the city for six months after passage of a ballot proposal. Following that period, Bally's would have the right of first refusal to match any other qualified offer.

Foelsch said the proposal "seizes an opportunity."

Alderman Harold Bayens, 3rd Ward, said, "If we don't move swiftly, our destiny won't be in our hands. It will be right next to us. That was one of the big reasons for the haste. It's not a matter of covering anything up. It's a matter of moving on it expeditiously."

But resident Jack Schumacher called the closed session the "most atrocious and arrogant thing that this city government has ever done. …

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