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Columbia First Ward voters to decide whether to keep councilman


Columbia Ward 1 voters will be asked Tuesday if they want to retain or recall their councilman, Nick Knoth.

The group Recall Nick Knoth believes Knoth's day job as a lobbyist presents a direct conflict of interest with his duties as a councilman. The City of Columbia received a recall petition from Ward 1 residents in December.

Residents began collecting signatures for the petition in October after Knoth accepted a position as the Director of Government Affairs and Regional Advocacy with the Missouri Association of REALTORS.

Susan Maze with the recall group said housing is a hot topic in ward one neighborhoods, and residents want a representative who will look out for their interests instead of that of realtors.

"We're under an immense amount of pressure from real estate and developers to change who we are fundamentally," Maze said. "So, we are more sensitive than most to that particular group of people."

Maze said when residents first inquired if this job would create a conflict of interest, they felt the city disregarded their concerns. That's when some residents decided to get signatures for a recall vote.

"There was really no other option to make sure that people are aware that this is a big deal and it matters," Maze said.

However, Knoth said his job doesn't pose any conflict with his responsibilities as a councilman. He said his role with Missouri Realtors includes advocating for realtors at the state level and communicating that information with local realtor boards.

He said he checked with city attorneys and the Missouri Ethics Commission before taking the job to ensure there wouldn't be a conflict.

"Predictably, there's not," Knoth said. "It's like any other day job in the end in that some things could occur at some point, but they haven't, and I don't know that they will."

He said housing has been and will continue to be his number one priority as a city councilman.

"I get to help move the needle in a positive way on homeownership both in my day job and in my work on council, which is something very near and dear to me as somebody who grew up housing insecure," Knoth said.

Knoth was appointed to city council in April, and pointed out the council has put millions of dollars into affordable housing in the past year.

"I hope that folks go into this judging me on the quality of service I've provided in my one year, however brief that has been, and on the reality of what has occurred and the work I have provided," Knoth said. "Not merely on assumptions or false accusations."

Despite Knoth's assurances, the recall group still feels he could potentially be pressured into doing something that goes against the wishes of first ward residents.

"This is not about Nick. I think he's a nice enough guy and he would never willingly do something like that," Maze said. "But, we all get pressure to do what we need to do to keep our livelihoods, and the fact that (his) livelihood is the realtors, that's a complexity that doesn't give trust."

Knoth said he was surprised to hear about the recall in the fall, and has since had a handful of voters reach out to meet with him about the topic.

He said no matter the result on Tuesday, he hopes it's a super majority so as not to divide the ward. If he stays in office, Knoth plans to have meetings to bridge the gap with residents who believe he should be recalled.

Maze said she believes the city hasn't been strict enough when it comes to conflicting interests with council members. Former mayor Brian Treece served two terms while working as a lobbyist.

Article Topic Follows: Your Voice Your Vote

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Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


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