Proctor goes off the rails: City officials' ethics questioned by state auditor, concerned citizen
It doesn't bode well for a city when its lone registered mayoral candidate has the state auditor on his back. But that's exactly what's happening in Proctor, where Stephen Anderson and his actions as the city's deputy clerk equated to "malfeasanc...
It doesn't bode well for a city when its lone registered mayoral candidate has the state auditor on his back.
But that's exactly what's happening in Proctor, where Stephen Anderson and his actions as the city's deputy clerk equated to "malfeasance*, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office," according to the state's report. The case is being referred to the St. Louis County attorney, where charges will be considered.
The issue stems from a May 28, 2003, purchase of land from the city. Premier Three, a business partnership of which Anderson is an investor, negotiated a $46,000 (plus $4,000 in services and fees) deal for 3.2 acres adjacent to the city's municipal golf course.
Not only was Anderson the city's deputy clerk at the time, he was also president of the Proctor Economic Development Authority (PEDA).
Despite advice from Proctor's bond counsel that Anderson should step down from PEDA, he remained in his position until after PEDA and the city council had approved the development agreement.
Thankfully, somebody smelled a rat. To Gordon Downs, who was first alerted to the sale because of his position on the golf course's board of directors, the whole operation screamed of unethical wrongdoing.
What's really tragic, though, is that without Downs' willingness to question his city's officials, this whole situation probably would have been swept under the rug.
It's not like he could go to the city's newspaper, the Proctor Journal. Its editor and publisher, Jake Benson, happens to be a city councilor.
Downs said he has approached Benson nearly 10 times over the past five years with city council issues, but nothing ever came of them.
Can we say "conflict of interest," kids? Or how about "not again, Proctor"?
Downs also approached the remaining city councilors, but, again, to no avail.
Wait ... aren't these people elected to serve their constituents and uphold the ethical standards of their community?
It wasn't until Downs contacted the state auditor's office that his concerns were heard and justice was, at the very least, a little closer to being served.
In addition to the aforementioned malfeasance, an Oct. 26 report issued to Proctor officials by Carla Heyl, deputy state auditor, warned of Anderson being elected mayor: "It is likely that additional conflicts may arise in the future, because a mayor also acting as a developer in the city raises the same issues."
Downs must be commended for gathering all the information he could -- including out-of-pocket expenses for an independent appraisal of the land by Twin Ports Appraisals -- and sending the relevant material en masse down to St. Paul.
While every citizen should keep tabs on its elected officials and stand up for what's right, it's even more important in cities like Proctor, where media and government go hand in hand.
If the media isn't fulfilling its duty as a government watchdog, then it's up to citizens like Downs.
*Webster's New World Dictionary says malfeasance is wrongdoing or misconduct by a public official that is 'positively unlawful.' Basically, it's not good.
Matthew R. Perrine is the Budgeteer's news clerk/reporter. He can be reached at 723-1207 or firstname.lastname@example.org .