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.