MARYVILLE, Mo. — For nearly two hours Friday, several Skidmore leaders and community members were at the Nodaway County Courthouse to watch the slow and methodical wheel of justice turn as Judge Corey Herron worked to clear up the muddy water involved in the case Rick Stanton filed against the city of Skidmore.
At the heart of the case is Stanton’s petition filed in March claiming that the city is selectively prosecuting him for property blocking an alleyway.
The administrative hearing was full of extremely technical legal discussion and often Herron explained to Stanton just what the judge required to make a fair decision based on information submitted to the court.
While Stanton has filed “voluminous” pleadings for administrative review with the court regarding Missouri Revised Statutes 527 and 536, the judge suggested the person he is getting legal advice from should enter the court.
“The lawyer doing this for you needs to enter or stop representing you outside of this court,” Herron told Stanton.
After much discussion, Herron said the entire case feels like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It may not even be subject to a 536 administrative review, as the city is a political subdivision of the state, possibly not an “agency,” Herron said.
“We’re here because you brought this action and I’m not entirely convinced this is the best way for you to go,” Herron told Stanton.
Count 1 challenges the validity of a city ordinance as it is unconstitutional and unenforceable.
In response to this count, Skidmore City Attorney Jean Maneke explained that this issue would have needed to be raised at the first opportunity. Because it wasn’t brought up in the first hearing, it cannot be raised now.
“He factually admitted (that he didn’t raise the issue at the first hearing),” she said.
In a response to one of the city’s filings, Stanton stated he didn’t bring up the unconstitutionality of the ordinance because he didn’t believe the city could rule on the topic.
Stanton argued he was still awaiting discovery from the city, and that they could have offered a recording to prove he brought up the issue.
Herron said Friday that Stanton only filed a week ago noting he’d not received the discovery. The judge stated he was trying to decide how important or necessary that discovery was to the motion of the city, and took the matter under advisement.
Count 2 states that the city failed to enforce the ordinance against other people. Maneke said she previously argued that this is irrelevant in terms of the ordinance.
“If the ordinance is valid, stands on its own feet and the court has determined he violated it, what difference does it make how many times it’s been enforced?” asked Maneke.
Count 3 stated that the alleyway was abandoned by the city. While it doesn’t depend on the validity of the ordinance, it has already been determined by a matter of law to be incorrect.
“A municipality cannot abandon property by inaction,” Herron told Stanton, in an attempt to clear up a possible misunderstanding. The city would have had to approve an ordinance to relinquish ownership, and it has not done so.
Stanton also filed a motion for leave to file a first amended petition, which would add an additional count. Count 4 requests compensation for the “illegal taking” of property, which the city has not done, said Herron.
Another issue with Count 4 may cause additional confusion. Herron explained that Count 4 is written in such a way that the court could find in Stanton’s favor on either Counts 1 and 2, or on Count 4, but not all.
However, all of this would be negated, should the judge find in favor of the city’s point of view regarding Counts 1 and 2 that the court isn’t in a position to rule on the constitutionality of the ordinance because Stanton didn’t raise it through proper procedure. If the judge did so, there would be no need for a trial in December.
Herron took the entire matter under advisement.