Belle aldermen discuss allegations against marshal, plan special meeting

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 7/22/20

BELLE — Belle aldermen on Tuesday, July 14, made plans to proceed with an investigation into allegations that Marshal Joe Turnbough used city equipment for personal gain.

Alderman Tony Gieck …

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Belle aldermen discuss allegations against marshal, plan special meeting

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BELLE — Belle aldermen on Tuesday, July 14, made plans to proceed with an investigation into allegations that Marshal Joe Turnbough used city equipment for personal gain.

Alderman Tony Gieck asked the board if they wanted to talk about the situation.

“Are we going to do a formal inquiry about what Josh (Seaver, former mayor) brought up last month about Joe using the police car for personal use?” Gieck asked.

Mayor Steve Vogt said that the marshal would not be present at the meeting.

“His father is having surgery. Do you want to revisit it next month?” Vogt asked.

Last month before stepping down, Seaver presented his case to the board that Turnbough was driving the city police car to Phelps Health in Rolla where he has been working full-time. Turnbough began working full-time following aldermen’s decision in January for the Maries County Sheriff’s Department to begin running the Belle Police Department.

“We ought to set aside some time for him. He ought to be there and ask him about it,” Gieck said.

Vogt said Turnbough works from 2 to 10 p.m. at the hospital. Struemph said she could only come in for a special meeting on Mondays and Thursdays and the board agreed 10 a.m. would be best.

“I will try to set that up and let you know,” Vogt said.

Gieck said he would work with whatever Struemph could do.

Junior Pendleton also spoke out at the meeting during the public discussion, saying Turnbough was not doing his duty as the city marshal and enforcing ordinances.

“I came here today at Turnbough, he’s not doin’ his job,” Pendleton began. “I’ve got papers in here:

The first one is a dereliction of duty. He’s not doin’ his job.

Number two: He took another full-time job. You can’t even get a hold of ‘em.

Number three: Cannot contact him about emergencies or anything because he’s not here.

Number four: He does not go by the city code or ordinances according to his duties to the citizens of Belle.

Number five: He is using his police car for his own personal use.”

“I want this here put in his personnel file,” Pendleton said. “I am not singling out anyone one person, but here’s some pictures over by me.”

Pendleton showed the board photos of the neighbors’ properties behind and beside him. More on First Street and sheds.

“I ain’t singling out just one person, but you have this all over town. He ain’t doin’ anything about it neither, but I want that to go on his personnel file and if anybody comes for a reference, they’ve got it.”

Vogt said he did have a response to the allegations from Pendleton for the record.

“Just FYI, this past week we’ve issued 17 or 18 nuisance letters. I say 17 or 18 because one was still to be delivered today — if not we will have to mail it,” Vogt said. “The ones in the pictures have been issued nuisance letters. They have received ‘em with the only exception of the one that is all grown up at First and Belle Avenue, which is in probate. Right now we can’t do anything about that.”

Another picture at 500 First Street has since mowed their grass. The ones by Pendleton have been issued letters to both the tenant and landlord, which they have received. The one on Third Street that has no porch on it was also issued a letter.

“So the process is starting on 17 or 18 of these properties, depending on if its grass or trash or junk,” Vogt said. “I was able to get Marshal Turnbough to go with me — or I went with him — to deliver a majority of those in two days.”

The ones they didn’t deliver on the first day, they went back the next day. Some people were not home during the day, so went in the evening. Four were sent by registered mail and another was from out of town. Another person received three because they are the landlord of these residences.

“By no means is that all of them, but we tried to pick the worst ones to start with,” Vogt said. “The one place was up on Eight Street, the person was home but didn’t’ answer the door,” Vogt said. “Was said they are going through an eviction process, which may be why they are not answering the door.”

Vogt said the problem is being worked on and he appreciates the concerns of the citizens.

“Nobody wants that next to them and the situation probably should have been handled before, but the process has started,” Vogt said.

After the letter, the landowner/tenants have 15 days to take care of the issue. If the landowner does take care of the issue and allows the grass or incident to be in violation again within a calendar year, they will receive a summons and a ticket according to city ordinance.

Alderman Jeanette Struemph asked who issued the letters and Vogt said he and Turnbough drove around delivering them.

Pendleton asked if the letter and photos would be entered into Turnbough’s personnel file. Struemph said it is documentation for the city’s reference. She made a motion and Alderman Sundi Jo Graham seconded the motion. Vogt asked if there was any discussion.

Struemph said the issue with their lawyer (in regards to Turnbough before) was that they had no documentation to support claims (against the marshal).

“When we change administration, it starts over,” Vogt said agreed.

Struemph asked Pendleton to sign and date his complaint. The agreement to document the complaint was passed with a 7-0 vote.

“There is another thing we could do at that same meeting, perhaps,” Vogt said, adding that he would contact the necessary people.

As of Thursday, July 16, a special meeting had not been scheduled.

Aldermen agreed that they could also do employee evaluations after the scheduled meeting. Since Turnbough is an elected official, the special meeting with him will be open to the public. However, the city employees’ evaluations are conducted in closed session under personnel.

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