Belle Alderman questions marshal’s inaction to perform duties, lack of responsibility

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 11/18/20

BELLE — Alderman Sundi Jo Graham questioned Marshal Joe Turnbough during the Nov. 10 city meeting about his inaction to comply with the board’s request to submit monthly activity logs, …

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Belle Alderman questions marshal’s inaction to perform duties, lack of responsibility


BELLE — Alderman Sundi Jo Graham questioned Marshal Joe Turnbough during the Nov. 10 city meeting about his inaction to comply with the board’s request to submit monthly activity logs, adding that he doesn’t take responsibility for himself.

“Here we are in November and you haven’t brought one log to a meeting,” Graham said. “You will not take an ounce of responsibility as to why. You have sat here and made it everybody else’s fault. Tell me I’m wrong. I’m serious.”

Alderman Courtney Abel told Graham she wasn’t wrong. Turnbough said he had just told Graham he could sit down with her and work things out, but he wasn’t sure how they could work things out with the constant battering. He added that he is an elected official.

Graham looked at her fellow board members and snorted, “he is an elected official, so he doesn’t answer to anybody.”

Turnbough said they are all elected officials and should try to work together.

“I have tried to work with you, Joe,” Graham said. “I sat with you and the mayor last week for over an hour.”

Turnbough said he hadn’t raised his voice at Graham throughout the evening, but she had raised hers multiple times. He added that he would guess there were five minutes or more of Abel and Graham raising their voices at him. Graham apologized and said she would work on not raising her voice.

“Last week I sat with you and the mayor for at least an hour, trying to figure out what we could do, trying to figure out what we could resolve, and if we could work together, and how did that end? By you, pointing your finger in my face and yelling at me and stomping out,” Graham said.

Turnbough said he came back five minutes later and asked if they could take a time out.

“There is nothing wrong with that,” Turnbough said. “We are elected officials, we don’t have to agree on everything.”

Graham agreed but said Turnbough asking over and over why they couldn’t work together doesn’t make sense in light that she has tried to do just that.

“You have yet to do anything about it,” Graham said.

Turnbough asked why telling her they needed to take a time out and thanking her for coming down to meet with him wasn’t acceptable.

“After you point your finger in my face and stomp out? No, I don’t think that is how that works, Joe,” Graham said.

Turnbough said the mayor and he have agreed to set their differences aside to work together and he admires Vogt for doing it.

“Ok, I can go with that,” Graham said, turning to the mayor. “Has it been successful, Steve?”

Vogt said they were making progress. Graham asked if the progress was successful. Vogt said it was better than nothing.

“You need to be more specific,” Graham said to Vogt. “Cause I am about to call bull crap.”

Turnbough and his wife Debbie Turnbough stood up.

“There is no reason for you to talk to the mayor this way,” Turnbough said. “Shame on you for doing so. I’m done. Mr. Mayor, I apologize. You guys have a nice evening.”

Graham continued to ask Vogt how many times he had come to her and said he had to lead Turnbough to do his job?

“You can’t say we are making progress when you are coming to me saying Joe won’t do his job unless you make him,” Graham said.

“I can’t make him do his job, but we can work together to get it done,” Vogt argued.

“You have a very different story than what you told me last week, and I am not ok with that,” Graham said. “I am not trying to disrespect you in any way, but I am calling the crap to light. I am not going to play this game when somebody says one thing when they are not around and another thing when they are. That is not how I work.”

Graham said Vogt has told her the things he has had to do to get Turnbough to do his job, and then sits in a meeting with Turnbough and doesn’t tell the whole truth. She said Vogt didn’t tell her the whole truth at the previous board meeting either.

“I think you are seeing things different than the way I intended, but I am working with Joe trying to get him to do things,” Vogt said.

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Graham said. “Your whole story has changed.”

Graham asked Vogt what he has said previously about Turnbough, and not to say everything is fine. Vogt said it’s not fine, but it’s progress. He has had to lead Turnbough to do his job.

“So you are ok with leading the elected marshal to get things done,” Graham said.

Vogt said it’s getting things done.

“You know how I feel about it,” Graham said. “I am not trying to destroy the marshal’s life. We sat down last week, because I don’t think everything has to be done publicly.”

Graham said Turnbough blamed the STARS report, required by the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) on former captain Kim Elrod, who was dismissed in 2019. Graham asked Turnbough if he checked on the progress of that report, and Turnbough said he asked Elrod about it and was told it was done. She asked Turnbough what responsibility he takes in the job not being done. She said he didn’t want to take any responsibility.

“He would not take responsibility for the fact that his car has been sitting there, not being used. He said he didn’t know if he was supposed to get it fixed or not,” Graham said. “He said ‘he wasn’t sure where to take it.’ Ok, take it somewhere where it can be fixed. The end. He said he didn’t have a gas card. I think he should. Why doesn’t he?”

Alderman Jeanette Struemph said they took it away because they didn’t want to pay for the fuel for the marshal to go to Rolla and back.

“Ok, we can track that right?” Graham asked.

Abel said they took the card away because Turnbough refused to track that.

“I still think it is fair to him as the marshal to have a gas card,” Graham. “But even in that, he didn’t want to come to city hall and pick up a gas card and be treated like a child.”

Graham said he had an excuse for everything and his answer was, “you are not my boss, the city council is not my boss, I work for the people.”

Graham said that is fair, but asked if she could speak with Turnbough from the viewpoint as a taxpayer and why he refuses to be accountable when tax dollars pay a full-time salary while he works a full-time job elsewhere.

“He didn’t have an answer for it,” Graham said.

Graham made a motion to return the marshal’s gas card. A long silence ensued before Alderman Tony Gieck seconded. The motion passed with a 2-1-1 vote, Struemph abstaining and Abel voting no.



Marshal Joe Turnbough previously agreed to submit a report log at each meeting to show calls, reports, and other activities for the month. The board began asking Turnbough for an activity log in July and passed an ordinance requiring the marshal to submit one in August. When asked if he brought a log to the November meeting, Turnbough replied in the negative.

“No, I did not,” Turnbough said. “You and I were going to go over how to make up one that works. I was thinking to go through the sheriff’s office like all the other deputies do and at the end of the month to just print out the report. If you want it in a different way, you and I and the mayor can sit down and discuss how you would like it.”

Turnbough said if he records everything through the Maries County Dispatch, he can give them mileage at the beginning and end of the month.

“That was last week that we had the discussion. You asked me if I could help you, and I said if you had some ideas, we could definitely sit down,” Graham said. “But in the meantime, you don’t have a log report.”

Turnbough said he did not have one with him.

“But do you like the idea of going through the sheriff’s department?” Turnbough said.

Graham said whatever would provide the city with a log report would work. Abel interjected.

“Deputy Harp,” Abel said, addressing the Maries County deputy present. “When you go 41, do you give your beginning mileage? When you go 42, do you give your ending mileage? When you transport females, do you give your beginning and ending mileage?”

Harp said he does, and began to explain the Maries County Sheriff’s Department procedures. Abel interrupted again.

“Absolutely. So everything that is being done should be documented through dispatch,” Abel said. “Every stop, from the beginning to the end. Not only to prove that there is stuff going on and that you need help but to protect your safety and to protect you. You worked for Chris (Heitman, sheriff) for how long?”

Turnbough asked Abel who she was speaking to, and Abel said she was speaking to him. Turnbough’s wife, Debbie Turnbough, was sitting next to her husband and asked Abel why she was yelling.

“I am not speaking to you, and you are not signed up to speak, so you are not to speak at this time,” Abel said firmly.

Abel asked Turnbough again how long he had worked for the sheriff’s department under Heitman. Turnbough said about 12 years now.

“12 years. That’s all I’ve got,” Abel said.

Graham began again, rubbing her eyes.

“Here is my issue,” she said. “I provided that mileage report for you at the very beginning of August. I provided one that seemed to be what others used. I provided you opportunities to pick it up. You agreed that you were going to provide a log. Here we are at another meeting and you haven’t provided a log.”

Turnbough began slowly.

“Well the difference between myself and Deputy Harper here — I am an elected official and not a patrolman,” Turnbough said. “What you are asking for is kind of like a patrol log, what you would do on a day to day basis. I do not mind letting the council know what I have done for the month, but Lt. Scott John, when he gives you a briefing of what he has done for the month — I don’t mind doing that as well, but I am not a patrolman, so I don’t feel obligated to do a log like the patrolman do. I am a city marshal, not a patrolman.”

Graham asked if Turnbough doesn’t patrol because he is the city marshal? Turnbough said no, he is just not a patrolman. Turnbough said the sheriff doesn’t fill out a patrol log like his deputies do either.

“But did you agree you would bring a patrol log to the monthly meetings?” Graham asked.

Turnbough said he did agree to let the board know what he does, like Lt. Scott John does.

“No, you didn’t actually,” Graham said. “You agreed that you were going to bring a monthly log to the meeting. You have brought one (since June).”

Turnbough argued that the board said they didn’t like what he brought, and Graham said last week that she would sit down with him and tell him what they wanted.”

Graham said that that is not what they agreed on and that was not what was said.

“I misunderstood then,” Turnbough said.

Debbie Turnbough asked the board if she could speak. Both Graham and Abel said no.

“You do not work for the city of Belle,” Graham told Debbie Turnbough. “Your husband does.”

Debbie Turnbough asked why, “I am a citizen, I pay taxes.”

Graham told her she does have a right as a citizen to address the board during a meeting if she signs up and speaks during the comments from the visitors’ section at the beginning of the meeting. Visitors are not supposed to speak throughout the meeting outside of that line item.

“You are welcome to come to a city council meeting,” Graham said. “So here is what I am saying, Joe. Last week, we had an hour-long conversation and I tried to get you to take responsibility for yourself. Here we are again. You didn’t even show up with a log you agreed to show up with and you have an excuse for not having it.”

Turnbough said he could share with her some of the things he had done, but told her that the log she wanted him to fill out was similar to what a patrolman does. It doesn’t work for him.

“It’s not a daily log for when you do something,” Graham countered. “It tracks your mileage from start to finish, the activity that you did, and what the result of that activity was.”

Struemph said the log should show the date he begins, beginning and ending mileage when he begins and ends his day as well, and what he did during the eight hours he was on duty.

“If anything ever comes up in the state, or whatever, you have proof ‘this is what I did.’ It also allows us to substantiate money to say ‘this is what I need,’” Struemph said.

Struemph also added that it tracks the maintenance on his vehicle so they can see when they need to get rid of it or start saving for a new one.

Turnbough said he can start going through Maries County. Graham wasn’t happy with the promise.

“You said you were going to do that Joe, and you have yet to do it,” Graham said. “The last time I asked you for your mileage, you said ‘well, I’ve been driving my car, I don’t really track mileage.’ Then you say ‘I don’t want to provide mileage because there has been a tracker on my car.’ Every time I have asked you for something, you have had an excuse not to provide it.”

Turnbough said he wasn’t going to continue arguing the point with Graham.

“I am not arguing, I am asking you to answer questions,” Graham said in frustration. “Why you aren’t providing what you agreed to provide.”

Turnbough began to say he has agreed to provide documentation and changed course.

“If the sheriff’s department and the city of Belle want to enter into a contract to let them do the policing and shut the police department down, then what I have decided to do, which is what I just said, is try to go through the sheriff’s office because that is what they are using. Dispatch will record everything and I think that is the very best way to do it.”

Graham asked why, if that is what he has decided to do, that he hasn’t done it before. “Why did you show up to another meeting without a logbook?”

Turnbough said he could sit with the sheriff and John to make sure that route is ok with them.

“Ok, but tell me why you have shown up to another meeting without a log,” Graham said.

Turnbough said he didn’t agree to provide a log and Graham said the paper he signed with the mayor and the city clerk present said he agreed to provide the board with a monthly log.

“You signed this on Aug. 4,” Graham said.

Turnbough said it was a mistake then.

“It’s a mistake that you signed this with two witnesses?” Graham asked.

“I didn’t even read it,” Turnbough countered quickly.

Graham slapped her hands on the table and raised her voice, “That’s your fault, that’s your first problem, then, Joe, that’s not my fault.”

Turnbough asked Graham why she was yelling at him.

“Well, come on,” she said, again leaning back in frustration.

Turnbough said the mayor told him that he agreed to give the board some type of log.

“Do you have anything to say to that, Steve,” Graham asked the mayor.

Vogt said he did tell Turnbough that he would be agreeing to provide a log.

“But it was all there on the paper,” Vogt said.

“So it is your fault that he agreed and signed a form that he didn’t read,” Graham asked Vogt.

Vogt muttered a response, so Graham read the document to Turnbough. Turnbough said he has dropped logs off at city hall.

“We saw those, and they were incredibly late,” Graham said.

Turnbough raised his voice slightly and said Graham had just told him they hadn’t received a log. She said Turnbough hadn’t brought one to a meeting as he was asked to.

Following Turnbough’s exit and Graham’s discussion with Vogt, the board moved on with other city business.


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