Do Banks Dominate The Municipal Utilities?
Back in June, 2010, when I sat down to discuss Open Access with the Municipal Utilities Advisory Board, I sat across the table from three Board members of Southern Bank, one executive officer of First Midwest Bank, and one executive officer of Commerce Bank. It made me wonder why this board was dominated by one industry. One friend told me it was because of how much cash flows through MU/City Cable. Another source told me that at least one local bank paid a bonus to their executive officers if appointed to Municipal Utilities Advisory Board (MUAB).
Let me make a couple of things extremely clear:
- I’m not accusing any banks or bankers of wrong-doing
I believe banks are extremely important to our community
And bankers are great people who play important roles in addition to banking within our community
But with that said, when a portion of our community is overseen predominantly by one industry, I think that our community needs to be aware of it. With the new push for open and transparent government, I felt it was necessary to post my findings.
The MUAB is made up of seven members, five of which can vote:
One Appointed City Council Member (voting)
Four Appointed Citizens (voting)
Last week I requested, by Missouri Sunshine Laws, a list of all MUAB Members From 1990 to 2013.
Working with other community members to confirm bank affiliations, I created a graph which shows how many of the four seats have been occupied by bankers over the past 20 years.
Here’s another view of the same information by the actual banks which hold those seats:
Around $50,000,000 dollars flows through the Municipal Utilities every year with about $15,000,000 in reserve at any one time. It would make sense that banks would want to have a pulse on that department, but that can be done by getting a copy of the minutes or just attending the open meetings. Being voting members gives the banks, in theory, control over that money and how it is spent. (Again, there is no evidence or suspicion of any impropriety by board members, this is strictly an informational post for the citizens who favor open and transparent government.)
So, why do banks dominate the four posts available to the general public? I do not know, but they are appointed by the City Council with direction from the City Manager. If you favor more diversity on this all-important board, then I suggest you vote in the upcoming City Council election on April 8.