City Council holds off appointing new Citizens Police Review Board member

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 | 7:42 p.m. CDT; updated 11:51 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 5, 2011

COLUMBIA – The City Council will hold off on appointing to the Citizens Police Review Board a man who was recently arrested on a charge of child molestation.

Merwyn Alexander, whom the Council elected Monday night to fill a vacancy on the board, was arrested Friday and is free on a $10,000 bond.

"One of the qualifications for membership on the board is no criminal background," Council Representative Gary Kespohl said in an interview Tuesday. “If he’s found innocent, we can put him on the board. Right now, he's off." 

The council has yet to decide how long it will wait for a verdict on Alexander's case before it opens the position to other applicants.

During Monday's meeting, city counselor Fred Boeckmann advised the council that if it decided to remove Alexander, it might imply a judgement. "If you remove him… I'm sure the council does not want that to indicate any finding of guilt."

According to the ordinance that governs the board, the police chief obtains the criminal record of all applicants and informs the council if any of them have been convicted of violating federal, state or local laws.

Alexander was chosen to fill a vacancy created when John McClure left the board in August. The position will reopen Nov. 1, 2012. 

Alexander is from Texas and has a degree in journalism, according to previous Missourian reporting. During an interview with the City Council Sept. 26, he said his background in insurance gave him the insight necessary to be qualified for the review board.

Susan Smith, whose term on the board expires 2012, handed in her resignation Monday because she will be moving from Columbia at the end of the month. 

Smith said she thought that the board had been true to its purpose during her term. 

"The board has established itself and continues to establish itself and work through some of the growing pains of a new board, but they've done a good job," Smith said.

The council will vote during its next meeting to fill the vacancy left by Smith and three board members — Stephen Alexander, Carroll Highbarger and Roger Dowis — whose terms expire Nov. 1.

The term of Gabriel Dean, the Human Rights Commission representative on the board, also ends Nov. 1, but his replacement will be chosen by the commission.

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