November 19, 2007

How to steal a public road-The cover up

Last week I posted a story about how residents in St. Charles County woke up one morning to find out a county road (Koch Rd.) was illegally torn out by a builder (McBride & Sons) and developer (Hyland Green/Foresight). McBride then used the public right of way to build houses. The City of O'Fallon and St. Charles County were willing co-conspirators in the destruction of the road. The end result has been that some O'Fallon residents recently invested over $200,000.00 in homes which are worthless. Other residents have lost a public road and now are forced to rely on a privately maintained road which is nether complete or up to MODOT standards. Rather than provide answers to how this could happen O'Fallon has intentionally misrepresented the facts to its residents to cover up its role.

Since I posted the first story I have received a copy of an email sent by O'Fallon City Administrator Bob Lowery. Lowery's email was sent in response to an email I sent to councilman Daniel Christoff (I copied in Lowery and all elected officials) which is set out below:
Mr. Christoff:

Thank you for your reply and I appreciate you taking the time to look into
this. I'm not sure if it was simply a typo but in the case of Koch Road
building permits were issued by O'Fallon to build on a road that was not
vacated. I think a Workshop is a great idea and will allow the residents
directly effected an opportunity to get their questions answered. I am glad
to see you do not see the violation of the law which occurred here as well
as the safety issues as "petty arguing" and I hope others on the council
will support your idea of a Workshop. Thanks.


Lowery's response is set out below:



I assume the issue Fischer is raising is that we issued building permits on Koch Road ROW in violation of the law (don’t bother to ask because I have no idea what laws he’s referring to were violated….). You will note that according to him Koch was not vacated when we issued these permits, which is frankly news to me. Please prepare no more than five minutes of presentation for the workshop. I want no editorials, just state the facts. The questions are simple:

When was the preliminary plat approved and did it call for the removal of Koch Road?
Why did the city want old Koch Road removed? Do we know who from the city?
Who authorized the removal of old Koch Road?
When was it removed and by whom?
Did the city, or anyone in authority from the city, have any role in the removal of the road?
Why and when was the record plat approved for the old Koch Road ROW?
Who requested that the record plat be brought to the city council for approval?
Why were building permits issued for the old Koch Road ROW?
Under what authority were the building permits issued? Did anyone, other than those in the building department, order or direct the issuance of these permits?
What correlation, if any, is there between the old Koch Road vacation and any proposals regarding Dierh Road?
What, if any, are the proposals for Dierh Road?


Bob Lowery
City Administrator

This email is nothing more than Lowery's attempt to provide himself an alibi. Lowery's does this by claiming he had no idea that Koch Rd was not vacated when the city issued building permits.

Lowery's alibi makes no sense. Notice that the issue raised by my email is that O'Fallon issued building permits to McBride & Sons to build on Koch Rd when it was not vacated. Lowery even notes this is the issue in his reply. However, my email does not provide any support for my allegations. If my allegation that building permits were issued by the city to allow a builder to illegally construct homes on Koch Rd was, as Lowery claimed, news to him, why wouldn't he challenge my claim? Notice in his questions Lowery fails to ask the most obvious and relevant question; Was Koch Rd vacated at the time the city issued building permits?

This has to be the first question in any real attempt to get answers. Lowery was off his game on this one. The proper strategy, which he has employed in the past, was as follows:

  1. Ask whether Koch Rd was vacated when the permits were issued. When staff tells him it was not (which Lowery already knows) Lowery should then
  2. Demand answers to how this could happen followed by
  3. Act as if this is news to him and then
  4. Find a scapegoat.

Lowery simply skipped steps (1) and (2) and went directly to step (3). Every good thief knows you don't claim you didn't know know the TV in your car was stolen before you make them prove it was stolen.

Of course, Lowery's claim that this was news to him is not true. O'Fallon was provided a copy of the County ordinance no later than November of 2005 and the ordinance clearly stated Koch Rd would not be vacated until New Koch was completed and accepted by the city. The city did not even (falsely) claim these conditions were met until February of 2007; 7 months after the city issued building permits. In addition, this issue was raised by staff as far back as June of 2003. Lowery was specifically told the reasons why the City could not issue building permits in March of 2006 and I raised these issues with him in numerous emails. There has also been media and internet coverage of the allegations against O'Fallon. Finally, in a pubic meeting in which Lowery attended, the issue regarding what needed to be done to vacate Koch Rd was discussed well after O'Fallon issued the permits.

The Koch Rd. case is indicative of the ongoing efforts of public officials to help out the big money builders and developers in St. Charles County. The amount of money the builders/developers pour into local political races is astonishing but I have no doubt some public officials receive more than just campaign contributions for their loyal service. For this reason I will continue to follow up on Koch Rd. as well as the other abuses which are a way of life here.

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