By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
LLOUISIANA, Mo. — Robbyn Morris, a Ward 3 council member for the city of Louisiana, was impeached Tuesday afternoon on a 7-0 vote of the full City Council, with Morris abstaining.
The council had sought impeachment charges against Morris after she recorded what other council members believed was a lawful closed session Sept. 10.
Morris' attorney, Rex Bradley, argued that Morris could record the closed session because she believed the session itself violated the Missouri Sunshine Law and had voiced her objections. Bradley argued the reason it was called — to reprimand an elected official, in this case, Morris — is not among the 22 reasons allowed by the law.
Morris said she was "shocked" at Tuesday's vote. She said she plans to run for the council seat again. She did not say whether she plans to file a lawsuit against the city for holding an unlawful closed session. At least one council member said he was confused about the impeachment vote.
Ward 3 councilman Chuck Hoffman said the only motion made was "whether to proceed." To him, that meant council members were prepared to fully discuss the charges. No explicit motion to impeach Morris was made, and Hoffman said he will request that the council reconsider the impeachment vote.
"As far as I was concerned, the judge had told us about three areas we could proceed into," Hoffman said.
"My seconding of it is embarrassing because I've been very outspoken about this issue. I did not know I was voting for Mrs. Morris's impeachment. All of a sudden, whammo, it's all over without any discussion."
Many of the spectators who crowded the basement of City Hall for the impeachment hearing also were confused when Mayor Tom Wallace announced that Morris was impeached.
"Wait. That's what they were voting on?" said a woman who had sat through more than two hours of legal arguments. Some other grumbles were heard from about 50 spectators.
Morris also did not think she was facing an impeachment vote when she abstained.
"I think the recording will show that a motion was made to proceed with discussion, look at the evidence, proceed with discussion. A second was made; there was room for discussion. From there, the mayor asked for a vote, with the vote supposedly being whether I was impeached," she said.
Morris said she has no regrets and would do the same thing if she had it to do over again. She felt she was following her oath that she took when elected not to break the law.
"And we went into a closed session that was illegal because all of the discussion was about me," Morris said.
Testimony and depositions put into evidence at Tuesday's hearing indicate that City Administrator Bob Jenne had sent a memo to the mayor and council members before the Sept. 10 meeting, seeking a chance to air complaints about Morris.
Bradley cited Missouri law saying elected officials are not considered employees and discussions concerning them are not among the exclusions to the Sunshine Law. He said that because it was not a legal closed session, Morris should not be charged with violating the law.
He added that City Clerk Sharon Kakouris also recorded all executive sessions at the mayor's direction. State law requires that the council would have to vote to allow a recording. He asked whether the council was prepared to charge Kakouris or the mayor for violating state law.
City Attorney Robert Rapp argued that Morris had other remedies and could have filed a lawsuit that might have cost the city up to $5,000, plus court costs. Rapp said when Morris made the recording available on the Internet, it was similar to the dirty tricks of President Richard Nixon and amounted to "assassination by Facebook."
After the impeachment vote was completed, Rapp said the removal of Morris "will bring closure" to the community. Asked if it also might spawn more lawsuits, Rapp said that is a possibility.
Hoffman said that too often what happens in Louisiana seems to be decided at a picnic table or at a private residence where some elected officials meet.
The eight-person council voted 6-2 on Sept. 26 to bring impeachment proceedings against Morris, who owns Robbyn's Nest gift shop in Louisiana. Two previous impeachment hearings had been scheduled and canceled.
Judge Bruce McGuire presided during the hearing portion of Tuesday's hearing to rule on issues of evidence.
Listen to reaction from Morris in these three audio files: