COLLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The lawyer for a Columbia councilman accused of misusing his office says a prosecutor has dropped charges.
Christopher Slusher, who represents Columbia Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas, said in a news release late Friday that Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Locke Thompson has dropped a misdemeanor charge against Thomas.
Thompson, acting as a special prosecutor because of a conflict of interest with the Boone County prosecutor's office, charged Thomas in September with attempting to commit an act prohibited by a public official, a Class C misdemeanor. Thomas was charged after offering to support a new subdivision in north Columbia in exchange for the developer making a donation to a low-income housing organization.
The subdivision project died before making it to the city council.
Thomas reported his own actions to the Missouri Ethics Commission after they were flagged by the city attorney as possibly illegal.
"Councilman Thomas maintains his position that he did not violate the law but has acknowledged making an error of judgment in his discussions with housing developers," Slusher wrote in a news release saying the charge had been dropped. "He has agreed to perform seventy-five hours of community service in the next six months and to have no violations of the law."
Thomas thanked people who acknowledged his apology for his behavior in a newsletter released Friday afternoon.
"In my eagerness to advance social equity goals in the community, I overlooked the fact that City Council members should never decide to vote a certain way on the basis of a single factor, nor should any decision be made until the end of the relevant public hearing," Thomas said in the letter. "However, there would have been no benefit for me and I corrected my error as soon as the City Attorney advised me (a few hours later) that the proposal, if enacted, might be illegal."
Thomas declined to comment beyond the newsletter and his attorney's statement.
Thomas faced criticism from fellow council members following the charge. Five council members signed a letter that said the charge "taint[ed] the integrity of our democracy and undermine public confidence.” Mayor Brian Treece's first draft of the letter called on Thomas and Second Ward councilman Michael Trapp, who was included on the original email chain with Thomas and developers, to "evaluate" their ability to serve on the council.
Trapp said he was "pleased but not surprised" to learn Thompson dropped the charge.
"I look forward to addressing affordable housing policy with Mr. Thomas
and the other members of Council," Trapp said.
Check back for updates to this developing story.