170907_ethics-2

Council Member Joyce Starr presented a check to a known lobbyist at the last Council meeting in order to repay him for a drink he paid for at Hi-Ho.

St. Joseph City Council Member Joyce Starr presented a check to a local lobbyist at the Aug. 28 council meeting in order to avoid taking what she considered to be an unethical gift.

Starr told the council and citizens in the chamber that the council members often go out in a group after meetings to HiHo Bar and Grill, and that Kenneth Reeder, a local political activist and lobbyist, is usually in attendance.

“We do that from time to time as a friendly get-together. We don’t discuss business; we’re there for laughs,” Starr told the chamber.

She said after the Aug. 11 council meeting, she discovered that Reeder was being repaid for purchasing them dinner and drinks, and wasn’t comfortable with it.

“At the last one, I was told when one of the tabs was paid, that actually it was paid so (Reeder) could be reimbursed, as if we had had a meeting and our names were written down beside the drinks,” Starr said. “I myself do not take gifts from lobbyists, I thought we were all friends and having dinner.”

Starr then presented a check and said she would like to reimburse Reeder for her drink.

In an interview with News-Press Now, Starr said the check was only for $4, but it wasn’t about the money.

“It’s not a big deal as far as the money, but it’s just the principle of the thing,” Starr said.

Starr said she is not sure whether or not council members are allowed to take gifts like that, but said she never will.

Reeder denies that he was reimbursed for the meals, and said it was just a friendly get-together.

“Maybe she has some sort of surveillance system or is plugged in with somebody in covert operations, but I have no idea what she’s talking about,” Reeder said.

Reeder is listed on the Missouri Ethics Commission’s website as a local government lobbyist who works only in the General Assembly. According to the site, he has not reported any expenses for any month this year.

Reeder said small amounts of spending do not have to be reported, but he did not pay for the meals and drinks unethically.

“There are rules you follow when you lobby or if you’re doing lobbying where you’re spending money on things, but this was never that and never has been that,” Reeder said.

He said he has been eating and drinking with the council members after meetings for at least six years. He believes Starr is only bringing this up now because of the upcoming election cycle.

He believes the fact that he has been outspoken against some city projects and entities makes him the “bad guy,” and Starr thinks she can benefit from having a conflict with him.

He said the council does discuss city issues with him at Hi-Ho, but they all know it is a get together between people of similar interests.

“It’s just a standing offer, come up, have a Pepsi-Cola and a hamburger and talk about it, talk about it face-to-face,” Reeder said. “I know all these people, I’ve been going to these City Council meetings for 10 years. I have a better attendance record to the City Council meetings than all of them.”

Starr said that Reeder had approached her four years ago before the election cycle and offered her a large amount of money.

“Mr. Reeder did come to me and had a proposal,” Starr said. “He had a certain amount of money and he had someone that wanted to help with campaign expenses of the council people, six of them in fact, and he did have a large amount of money. I told him then, ‘There’s no way, you came to the wrong person.’”

Starr was among the council members that went to Hi-Ho with Reeder after the Aug. 28 meeting and after Reeder had accepted the $4 check. She said she had her order removed from the group tab.

Brendan Welch can be reached at brendan.welch@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.

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