Hannibal’s latest city government controversy will play out in one of Missouri’s oldest courthouses.

 


Hannibal’s latest city government controversy will play out in one of Missouri’s oldest courthouses.

Judge David C. Mobley on Wednesday said he had set June 29 as the new date for an impeachment hearing against suspended Fire Chief Tim Carter.

The public hearing will begin at 8 a.m. in the second-floor courtroom of the 1858 Ralls County Courthouse at New London, where Mobley serves as an associate judge.

The hearing originally was set for March 23 at City Hall in Hannibal, but was postponed because Mobley had a conflict.

City Attorney James F. Lemon said the summer date gives each side time to interview witnesses and put together their cases.

“Ultimately, to get all of the discovery completed, it’s understandable that this is set out a little further,” Lemon said. “It’s the way the system works.”

Mobley did not explain his decision to have the hearing in New London, but Carter’s attorney, Neil F. Maune, did not mind.

“I think it’s a whole lot easier for everyone involved to have it in a courtroom than the city council chambers,” Maune said.

The impeachment charges were filed last month by City Councilmen and Fire Board members Jason Janes and Barry Louderman. The move came after the panel suspended Carter with pay for unspecified reasons in November and the chief served a three-day suspension without a public explanation the previous January.

Lemon and Maune declined to cite a specific number of witnesses, but said that Janes, Louderman and several firefighters likely will be called to testify.

“I have not talked to any firemen at this point,” Lemon said Wednesday, adding that he also had not spoken with Janes or Louderman specifically about testifying.

Carter said Wednesday a decision on whether he would testify had not been made, but Maune said his client is determined to defend himself.

“It’s a man’s reputation … and his family’s well-being that’s at stake,” he said.

Maune added that he had asked the city for all documents relating to disciplinary action taken against Carter.

“I’m going to see what the documents have to say,” Maune said. “I can only respond to the evidence presented there and the evidence presented by Mr. Lemon at the hearing.”

“We want to afford Mr. Carter all of his due process rights,” Lemon added.

The impeachment accuses Carter of acting unprofessionally and being derelict in his duties for alleged fraud, dishonesty, insubordination and oppression of others in the department.

The allegations, which Carter has refuted, deal mostly with his purported actions on asbestos removal at Fire Station 3 and a former television studio that was being converted to a Fire Department administrative office. Carter also was accused of not following Fire Board directives

The union that represents all but a couple of the city’s 40 firefighters recently finished a no confidence vote on Carter, but the results have not been released.

However, two separate sources confirmed to the Courier-Post that the vote was overwhelmingly against the chief.

Mayor Roy Hark, a former fire chief, and the city council will decide whether to fire or retain Carter. Janes previously announced that he would not seek re-election April 6. Louderman who is not up for re-election can testify, but city charter prevents him from voting on the impeachment.

Carter, 39, has been a Hannibal firefighter for 17 years and was appointed chief in September 2006. He continues to receive more than $5,700 a month in salary and benefits.

Under terms of his administrative leave, Carter would be paid through Dec. 1, 2010, then resign and receive a full pension starting two years later.

If he is impeached, he will be fired immediately and lose his pension. Carter has asked for a separate administrative hearing before Mobley, but the judge said Wednesday that a date had not been set.