Rogue Councilman Awards Key To City (UPDATED)
UPDATE: Following last night’s (8/18) City Council meeting, former Mayor Ed DeGaris provided the City of Poplar Bluff a check for $25 to cover the cost of the key he gave to Doug Bagby last week. SEMO TIMES asked Mayor Pearson if the councilman also apologized for his actions and she said, “I had a private conversation with him” but Pearson would not reveal any of the details.
In the Sunday edition of the Poplar Bluff daily newspaper, former City Manager Doug Bagby is seen being awarded a “Key To The City” by councilman Ed DeGaris. A key to the city is an honorary custom from medieval times and symbolizes that the recipient can be trusted to come and go from the city gates with honor. For the city to honor the former city manager after being fired in May and simultaneously be in litigation over a contract dispute appears rather odd.
SEMO TIMES has spoken to four council members about the key and the appreciation event held at the Chamber of Commerce building on Friday evening. According to Councilwoman Betty Absheer, she was invited to the event and did attend, but was not present when the key to the city was awarded to Bagby. She indicated that former councilwoman Susan McVey was one of the event coordinators.
Mayor Pearson and Councilman Tinsley both reported that they were not aware of the event, were not invited to the event nor were they aware that a key to the city was being awarded to Bagby.
Mayor Pro Tem Rushin said he was made aware of the event only because a department head asked if there would be any repercussions to city employees who attended. Rushin would not divulge the department head who contacted him but did state that he would not allow repercussions upon city employees who wanted to attend. Rushin confirmed he was not invited and was not made aware that a key to the city was being presented.
Mayor Pearson stated “I do not believe that Councilman Ed Degaris has any such authority to award the key to the city. That is a mayoral duty.”
When asked whether city funds were used, Pearson said, “I do not know how the key or other gifts were paid for.” Pearson and Tinsley confirmed that no vote was brought before city council regarding the awarding of a key.
Mark Massingham, former Interim City Manager, also attended the event. Massingham said that the City Manager’s office doesn’t have control of city keys, “I know the key to the city authorization is not a city manager decision. I am assuming that is a council deal.”
City Clerk, Pam Kearbey, was unavailable to comment but SEMO TIMES has been told she is in charge of non-issued keys.
The event was held at the Chamber of Commerce building but Steve Halter, Chamber President, stated it was not a chamber event and was not aware of the award until the he read the newspaper Sunday morning.
Neither DeGaris nor McVey were available at their published phone numbers.
From all appearances, former Mayor Ed Degaris and former city councilwoman McVey decided that Doug Bagby should have a key to the city and awarded it to him.