Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ex-Zoning Director Argues That Firing Was Improper

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ex-Zoning Director Argues That Firing Was Improper

Article excerpt

Don O'Donniley, Jefferson County's planning director for six years, was improperly fired by the County Commission, O'Donniley's lawyer argued in court Tuesday.

"The commission had no authority to demand his resignation," said Andrew Sandroni, during a one-day trial in Hillsboro.

Bill Hellmich, a lawyer for the Commission, argued that the County Commission had the authority to fire the planning director. O'Donniley maintains that power lies with the Planning and Zoning Commission. Circuit Judge John L. Anderson took the case under advisement and indicated he would announce his decision within a few weeks. He already has issued a temporary restraining order to keep the county from hiring a new planning director until the case is resolved. O'Donniley is asking for an injunction against the firing so he can get his job back. The firing has stirred reaction in the county. O'Donniley's supporters have said Presiding Commissioner Jon Selsor wanted O'Donniley out to fulfill promises to builders and developers who contributed one-fourth of Selsor's election campaign funds in 1994. Many of the contributors thought O'Donniley was too tough in administering the zoning regulations. Selsor testified that he told O'Donniley he had only two options, quit or be fired. "I felt strongly it had to be done. There were philosophical and managerial differences," Selsor said. When Sandroni tried to question Selsor about the reasons for the firing, Hellmich objected saying, "The reasons why are not part of this trial." Selsor said members of the Planning Commission "were exasperated because I did not discuss it with them. . . . I didn't think it was the professional thing to do." O'Donniley has also filed a wrongful dismissal suit against the County Commission and a libel suit against Commissioner Fred Whitehead, 2nd District. Whitehead is accused of stating publicly that O'Donniley had been reprimanded. Whitehead denies making the statements, which were published in newspaper articles. …

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