The Platte County Prosecuting Attorney has filed a lawsuit seeking to remove the Tracy mayor from office for employing her son-in-law on multiple occasions.
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd filed the lawsuit, known as quo warranto, against Mayor Rita Rhoads on July 9. The lawsuit contends Rhoads violated the Missouri Constitution’s prohibition against nepotism when she hired her son-in-law to fix a damaged city sign. It also alleges Rhoads earlier hired the son-in-law to repair a City garage door and replace a water heater.
UPDATE: Judge Owens Lee Hull Jr. has issued a Preliminary Order in Quo Warranto which enjoins Mayor Rhoads from engaging in any activity or exercising any authority as Mayor of the City of Tracy, subject to further order of the Court.
Zahnd said, “The public policy behind the Missouri Constitution’s ban on nepotism is straightforward. Public officials should be prohibited from using their position of public trust to enrich relatives. And the Constitution is clear that engaging in nepotism results in the automatic forfeiture of office.”
According to court documents, Rhoads most recently employed her son-in-law, Matthew Spores, to repair a city sign damaged by a drunk driver in June.
The original check to pay Spores was written to MDS Construction. From 2003 to 2005, Spores was connected to a business named MDS Home Improvement, Inc.
When Spores was unable to deposit the check because he no longer had a business account with the MDS name, Rhoads wrote a check to Spores on the City account.
Court documents indicate that a city employee told Rhoads she could not employ Spores to work for the city due to the nepotism ban. Rhoads reportedly replied with words to the effect of, “I don’t care. They need the money.”
The Missouri Constitution provides that “any public officer . . . [who] appoints to public office or employment any relative . . . shall thereby forfeit his office.”
The suit against Rhoads is a civil, not criminal, case. Missouri law empowers county prosecutors to bring the actions against officeholders who violate the ban on nepotism or otherwise unlawfully hold or execute the duties of their office.
The case against Rhoads is being handled by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Joe Vanover.