Columbia city council refutes forum assertion about Skala

Friday, February 12, 2010 | 7:26 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — City Council members on Thursday and Friday refuted an assertion by Larry Schuster that drinking has compromised Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala’s working relationship with them.

Schuster, a former First Ward councilman, raised the issue at a Thursday afternoon forum hosted by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. He said he has heard from Skala’s colleagues that his drinking makes him difficult to work with.

“One has mentioned there is no sense in talking to you after 4 in the afternoon because of your habits that happen around happy hour,” Schuster said. “And you yelled at another council member to shut up at the retreat. And given that kind of conduct, do you have any kind of working relationship left with these people?”

Schuster, a local businessman and a columnist for the Columbia Business Times, said after the forum that Skala has “been very disruptive in a lot of meetings.”

Skala defended himself at the forum. “I have conducted myself in public adequately, if not better than adequately."

He acknowledged Friday morning that he and Fifth Ward City Councilperson Laura Nauser had some strong disagreements at the retreat.

“If someone said something, and my response was a little short, sorry, but I don’t have anything to apologize for.”

Skala also said at the forum that he has given up drinking to lose weight.

Council members said in interviews Thursday and Friday that they have no problems with Skala. Though Mayor Darwin Hindman declined to comment, every other council representative refuted Schuster’s assertion that Skala is difficult to work with.

Here’s what they had to say:

  • First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz: "I find that to be an inappropriate charge to lay at Karl, especially since now he's pretty dry.”
  • Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe: She said that she and Skala spend a lot of time together at smart growth conferences and that he always has been “well behaved.” He has never acted inappropriately at meetings.
  • Fourth Ward Councilman and mayoral candidate Jerry Wade: “Karl and I have a very good working relationship. Karl has always worked professionally and reasonably.”
  • Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill: He recalled the incident at the retreat. Skala got “a bit rude” and “began to lose concentration” as he drank wine during an evening work session. “We seem to share a professional respect for each other."
  • Nauser: The retreat episode was no big deal. “It’s much ado about nothing. We may disagree passionately, but at the end of the day we all get along.” She and Skala have "a very good working relationship."

Skala is seeking a second three-year term on the council. His opponent is Gary Kespohl. The election is April 6.

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Ray Shapiro February 13, 2010 | 12:07 a.m.

Just got back from the Bill Medley almost "Valentine's Day" concert in Booneville. Clicked on the Missourian and read this article.
Righteous Brothers and Sisters!
May the vest man win.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance February 13, 2010 | 1:02 a.m.

Where's the story about Kespohl lying about the email he sent to the council. I would think that ethically dilemma might be more newsworthy than a slanderous (and refuted) claims made by a pathetic man named Larry Schuster. Please follow up on the lie that was made a the Chamber forum. Thank you.

(Report Comment)
Layton Light February 13, 2010 | 1:52 a.m.

First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz: "I find that to be an inappropriate charge to lay at Karl, especially since now he's pretty dry.”

Politics 101: Lesson one - How to Say "No comment." Twenty Different Ways.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock February 13, 2010 | 2:54 p.m.

I agree, Patrick I don't think the title matches up with the comments at all. Did you press Paul with the "pretty dry" comment?

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance February 13, 2010 | 3:16 p.m.


No Allan and Layton, Sturtz found it to be an inappropriate charge. Talk about taking it out of context.

And Allan, the issue is the email that Kespohl sent to the council, that he denies sending it. This is an ethically dilemma that is the real issue. Apparently having candidate lie to the public doesn't concern you. You would of mentioned it. Maybe it was good that you weren't elected to the council. Your ethically compass seems to be a bit off.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 13, 2010 | 6:31 p.m.

The controversial email itself that Mr. Kespohl denies sending and source code information that tracks it back to Mr. Kespohl is included in this story:

KESPOHL FIB? Council email sparks controversial forum denial

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock February 13, 2010 | 9:07 p.m.

Tim if you think that a email is the issue well that is your opinion. Mike do you have anything to report on Karl?

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance February 14, 2010 | 1:40 a.m.

Yes Mike, please report about the slander on Karl. I think Allan wants you to fabricate something like Shurster did. To keep it "fair and balanced" of course. Boy you guys are really getting desperate. Lies, slander, how sad. Karl wins in April.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock February 14, 2010 | 9:54 a.m.

Tim, seriously grow up. Mike learns and hears of things that sometimes papers don't print. If Larry is making unfounded claims then you and Karl shouldn't have anything to worry about should you? Why do you care if I ask Mike anything if you "know" it to be untrue?

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 14, 2010 | 9:58 a.m.

Allan says: "Mike do you have anything to report on Karl?"

Not really, no. Nothing new has come up good or bad that wasn't hashed and rehashed during the last election.

The real difference now is that Mr. Skala has a voting record on the council that people can judge him by.

The stuff Larry Schuster brought up -- with his belt buckle apparently undone and large belly overhanging this fashion emergency -- has never risen above the status of rumor.

I mean, you have people posting on the Trib that Mr. Skala's coffee cup smelled of booze at council meetings, which is just absurd! Even sitting next to him, you'd have to have the nose of police dog to pick up the smell of liquor from a coffee cup, especially one with a lid on it, like he usually uses.

If I were looking to review Karl Skala, I'd characterize his service as one of "pro-active implementation."

It was Mr. Skala, for instance, who invented the "coffee house" office hours concept that legions of elected officials since have been using to meet with their constituents.

It was Mr. Skala who voted as his constituents had asked on the Landmark Hospital issue. And rather than lie about it later, he's spoken truthfully on it since.

It was Mr. Skala who politely asked for a "debate and discussion" -- not a ballot issue -- on a possible "advise and consent" role for the city council.

It was city attorney Fred Boeckmann -- no doubt at the behest of city manager Bill Watkins -- who wrote a ballot issue on advice and consent with no council input and force-fed it to the council, forcing them into a bad position where they had to vote against it.

It has been Mr. Skala -- unlike Jerry Wade -- who has consistently voted with and for the constituents he believes elected him. Landmark Hospital is but one of many examples.

People complain -- constantly -- that we have no real LEADERSHIP on the city council.

But Karl Skala has been leading since he took office. That, in my opinion, is why he has attracted detractors -- who, rather than attack his record, conjure rumors and attack those instead.

This is why so many public officials shy away from real leadership.

Nothing draws more criticism, and more detraction, than new ideas backed by real leadership.

(Report Comment)
Patrick Sweet February 15, 2010 | 10:37 a.m.


To address your question, Sturtz's "pretty dry" comment was in reference to Skala's abstention from alcohol as part of his diet.

I can't speculate the exact habits of Skala prior to the beginning of his new diet, except that the city council members reported that whatever habits Skala might have had did not interfere with his ability to work with other members.

This story toes the line between investigating Skala's personal and professional life. Because no city council members expressed any concerns about working with Skala, I did not dive any deeper into how Skala conducts himself outside of city business.

As far as what can be discerned from what was related to me, the council retreat was an isolated incident. What was not included in the story, but probably should have been in hindsight, is that Skala was not the only member of the council imbibing at the retreat.

I hope that answers your question.


(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 15, 2010 | 12:57 p.m.

("As far as what can be discerned from what was related to me, the council retreat was an isolated incident. What was not included in the story, but probably should have been in hindsight, is that Skala was not the only member of the council imbibing at the retreat.")

Sweet point, Patrick.
Hence, if any offense is taken over drinking at a retreat be taken by a teetotaler, then the concern might be with regards to policy and not effect.
If one were to make a sweet point, Patrick.

(Report Comment)

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