LETTER: Read's role in Crosscreek demands scrutiny

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | 5:58 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — It is important that the voters of the Fourth ward and city know about the inappropriateness of the mediation process used for the Crosscreek Development, at the intersection of Stadium Boulevard and U.S. 63. The developer-paid mediator for that process was Sarah Read.

In order to participate in the mediation, the Shepard Neighborhood representatives were required by Sarah Read to sign a nondisclosure agreement that anything discussed during the mediation could not be talked about or revealed outside the mediation. The three representatives of the Shepard Neighborhood Association, who participated in the mediation, did not believe the outcome was one they could recommend to their association members. Unfortunately, their hands were tied by the nondisclosure agreement, and they could not explain to the neighborhood association why they did not recommend the "mediation results." When the issue was brought to the neighborhood members for a vote, the representatives could not reveal what they advocated for or how the outcome "fell short" for the neighborhood.

While a nondisclosure agreement is typical and appropriate for two parties in a legal dispute pending before the court, it is totally inappropriate in a mediation between neighborhoods and developers for city developments. As a trained mediator by the MU Law School, I know it is essential that mediation occur with a level playing field. The neighborhood representatives must be free to go back to their membership and explain why they did or did not approve the results of the mediation.

An added flaw in the Crosscreek mediation process was that the developer paid and picked the mediator and the neighborhood representatives had no say in selecting the mediator or in the type of process that was used. The mediation process used in Crosscreek should never be used in mediations between developers and neighborhoods. Either the mediator did not understand the different needs and dynamics of the mediation process between neighborhoods and developers, or she understood the inequities and proceeded. Neither is good.

Barbara Hoppe is councilwoman for the Sixth Ward.

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