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Tillotson campaign accuses Hoppe of abusing power in fraternity house agreement

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 | 11:32 p.m. CDT; updated 10:16 a.m. CDT, Thursday, March 22, 2012

*This article has been modified to correct details about the photograph used in Bill Tillotson's television ad and to reflect that Barbara Hoppe says she attended only one meeting with members of the East Campus Neighborhood Association and representatives of Beta Theta Pi and its architect.

COLUMBIA — Sixth Ward City Council candidate Bill Tillotson is alleging that opponent and incumbent Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe abused her position when she intervened last fall in an East Campus Neighborhood Association fight against Beta Theta Pi's construction of a house that is taller than city codes allow.

In a 130-page packet delivered to the Missourian and in a 30-second television ad that aired Wednesday night, Tillotson's campaign accuses Hoppe of concealing the details of negotiations among the neighborhood group and the fraternity, its architect and its attorney that led to an agreement allowing the home to be built. He also alleges that Hoppe acquired public records for free on behalf of neighborhood residents. 

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"Finding a way for an individual not to pay for city services is a very direct abuse of power," Tillotson said in an interview.

His campaign also says Hoppe acted inappropriately in supporting the will of neighborhood residents who support her campaign over the interests of fraternity members who also are constituents.

A dispute arose between the neighborhood association and the fraternity in November. A design for the house approved in error by city staff exceeded height restrictions in city ordinances by more than 7 feet.

Hoppe said in a news release responding to the television ad Wednesday that her actions as councilwoman led to talks that allowed the fraternity to avoid demolishing the house and starting over. Tillotson's campaign said the fraternity at the time of the dispute already had invested $3 million in the house at 520 College Ave.

"Rather than force the structure to be demolished and rebuilt to code, I suggested that the neighborhood association communicate with the builder to come to a mutually beneficial solution," Hoppe said in her statement.

"I clearly helped the students, the neighborhood as well as the city," Hoppe said in an interview Wednesday.

Hoppe said she was present when the agreement between the neighborhood association and the fraternity was signed and that an attorney for the architect, Treanor Architects, drafted a confidentiality agreement about its terms.

Tillotson said that if Hoppe’s motivation were to broker a compromise, she would have been more forthcoming about the details of that agreement, which she has never disclosed. Tillotson's campaign said Hoppe is not bound to the confidentiality pact.

"If you’re going to help the Beta House and work out a financial agreement, why does it have to be secret?" Tillotson asked.

Hoppe said that regardless of whether she is legally bound to secrecy, the fact that when she was in the room when the talks took place ethically compels her to keep them confidential.

Tillotson's campaign alleges that the settlement called for a payment of $100,000 to the neighborhood association in exchange for its agreement not to oppose a variance allowing construction of the house. It cited a source with firsthand knowledge of the talks but said that person refuses to go public. Hoppe would not confirm the amount. 

The agreement happened just before the Board of Adjustment approved the variance Dec. 13 with no opposition from the East Campus association.

Tillotson supporters Scott Charton and Phil Warnken wrote and compiled the materials provided to the Missourian.

"Hoppe has shown hypocrisy about openness and transparency in city government by failing to disclose or subject the deal and the $100,000 payoff to scrutiny by city staff and her Council colleagues — and apparently having no intention of disclosing or discussing it publicly until after the April 3 election," Charton wrote.

Tillotson’s campaign points to a number of emails — provided to the Missourian — that were obtained through a records request to the city indicating members of the neighborhood association at first wanted construction of the house halted and later wanted compensation for the oversight regarding its height. Some of the those emails came from supporters of Hoppe's campaign.

On Nov. 20, an email from Lauriehyne@aol.com was sent to Hoppe and to East Campus Neighborhood Association President Janet Hammen.

"Overall, I don’t see that it’s in our best interest to fight this at the Board of adjustment (sic), because I think we will look very unreasonable," it read, "but I do think we need to exact our price for this mistake…"

Hoppe made a motion at a Nov. 21 meeting that the city order construction on the house to stop. That motion passed unanimously, but the fraternity's appeal to the Board of Adjustment prevented that order from taking effect immediately.

References to the matter emerged in public as recently as Monday night's City Council meeting, when Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill asked where the city, the architect and the fraternity stood on construction of the Beta house.

City Counselor Fred Boeckmann said that an agreement had been reached and that there had been no legal action on behalf of the city, according to a video transcript of the council meeting on the city's website.

"Did money change hands? We didn't get any money?" Mayor Bob McDavid said.

"That's what somebody asked me: Did the city get paid for this?" Thornhill asked.

"No," Hoppe replied.

The emails provided by the Tillotson campaign suggest that Hoppe was thinking about the Beta House settlement only a few days after the neighborhood and the fraternity reached an agreement.

The emails include a message that Hoppe sent to herself Dec. 16 in preparation for a meeting with City Manager Mike Matthes. It lists points that she planned to raise with Matthes. Among those were "East campus neighborhood-Beta House additional parkland, historic lights/banners."

Hoppe said it will be up to the East Campus association to decide how to spend the settlement money. She only wanted to talk to Matthes, she said, about whether the city would incur any expense in helping it fulfill the projects it was considering.    

Tillotson’s campaign further accuses Hoppe of acting as inappropriate counsel for the neighborhood association.

"Hoppe, an attorney, admitted serving as an ‘adviser’ to her East Campus political backers, while the Beta Theta Pi fraternity had to rely on outside legal counsel," Charton's statement reads. "Hoppe was wearing many hats — Council member, attorney, adviser and self-interested incumbent politician seeking re-election."

Hoppe’s statement says her role was limited to attending a discussion among the neighborhood group, Beta Theta Pi and its architect and attorney.* She also was present when Hammen read and signed the agreement, she said.

In a related accusation, the Tillotson campaign alleges Hoppe intervened to obtain city records for East Campus residents about the fraternity house construction for free. After neighborhood residents Hammen and Betsy Peters filed Sunshine requests seeking those records, Hoppe sent a subsequent email to the Community Development Department saying she would like the records, too, but that Peters would pick them up.

"I understand that the information should be provided free for me," Hoppe wrote. "I will rely on Betsy Peters to decide what is needed and she will pick it up for me." 

Hoppe said she regularly shares public records with constituents who are interested in them.

Peters has donated $1,000 to Hoppe's campaign, according to a finance report on file with the Missouri Ethics Commission.   

Tillotson's ad, titled "HOPPIEGATE FINAL_iPod_Low for web" in a version provided to the Missourian, starts with a photograph of Hoppe in a party setting with her husband, Mike Sleadd. A magnifying glass comes onto the screen, distorting Hoppe's face. Hoppe said that the cigarette she appears to be smoking is fake and that her husband used PhotoShop software to add to the image the necklaces she and Sleadd appear to be wearing.*

"I never smoke, and my father died of cancer," she said.

The commercial accuses Hoppe of siding with political donors when she stopped the fraternity building project until "she and her buddies could squeeze a $100,000 secret payoff." A man holding a cigar flips through a stack of bills while the ad alleges Hoppe is a hypocrite when she advocates for government transparency.

Hoppe said in her statement that the ad brings "local Columbia politics to a new low."

"It's just uncalled for," she said in the interview. "Columbia is better than that."

Missourian reporter Tony Lee contributed to this report. 


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Comments

Kevin Gamble March 22, 2012 | 1:01 a.m.

This is pathetic, and desperate. Shame on the Tillotson campaign for substituting cheap smear tactics for anything of substance.

Hoppe has served the ward honorably. Her involvement in this issue helped create a solution that worked for all parties, and untied a potentially thorny issue.

A question Sixth Ward residents should consider: would you respect someone who made an ad like this about a friend or family member of yours? This ad distorts and misrepresents reality, and is puerile and unprofessional.

In short, no one with integrity would create an ad like this.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 22, 2012 | 7:33 a.m.

Well, the Kespohl campaign seemed to be successful using these types of tactics, so maybe Tillotson (or someone in his campaign) feels it will work for him.

Very disappointing. If I were a sixth ward resident this alone would make me never vote for him.

DK

(Report Comment)
Daniel Jordan March 22, 2012 | 8:23 a.m.

Now we know what Tillotson is about.

His next ad should read, "Hi, I'm Bill Tillotson and I'll NEVER defend your property values."

I think he just threw the race.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 22, 2012 | 8:32 a.m.

Mr. Tillotson,

I hope the sixth ward never puts the likes of you on the council. Between your wife trying to game a poll to this pathetic ad. You are unfit to serve and I hope the new council makes sure you are not reappointed to the P&Z. Shame on you.

@Mark

Barb is more popular than Skala and Kespohl just barley won.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor March 22, 2012 | 9:22 a.m.

Tillotson just, "jumped the shark". I hear the fat lady singin'.

They should have sat on this until/if they found some kind of quid pro quo with some of that $100,000 coming back to Barbs coffers.

Or heck, at least make like a lib and make something up with the everpresent, ends justifies the means, rationalization...

This doesn't look so good...

(Report Comment)
Ron Fauss March 22, 2012 | 10:01 a.m.

The lady doth protest too much ... She sounds shady ... Check how much of the $100 large went to her campaign for re-election ...

(Report Comment)
Thomas Dillingham March 22, 2012 | 10:15 a.m.

It's probably not surprising that the chosen candidate of the Chamber of Commerce would stoop to the lowest kind of campaign tactic, grossly distorting words, actions, motives in a tv ad that is almost too sleazy even for the Roger Ailes school of politics, though it certainly chimes well with that other paragon of rightwing politics, Mr. Tilley's favorite for bust of the year. It's also ironic that the business interests/developers who have been savaging Barbara Hoppe for being 'anti-business' should be attacking her for supporting a compromise that was unquestionably helpful to the contractors and at least offered a considerable saving to the fraternity involved. The suggestion that Hoppe benefited financially from the compromise is too far into the Limbaugh-school of invective to be worthy of a response.
Many citizens of this city have rightly written and spoken in support of Barbara Hoppe's candidacy, pointing out her hard work, her integrity, her willingness to involve herself in efforts to satisfy the needs and aspirations of many groups. Those are qualities we need in a council representative. What we do not need is the kind of desperate flailing of the "winning justifies any means at all" style of contemporary campaigning--and that is exactly what the Tillotson campaign has shown itself ready to adopt. Apparently Mr. Tillotson has plenty of greed, and no conscience, no sense of shame. That is not the kind of council representative I want for our ward.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 22, 2012 | 10:16 a.m.

^^^^^^That would be a zero.

(Report Comment)
Dan Goldstein March 22, 2012 | 12:35 p.m.

Thank you Mr Tillotson for reminding me again what a great effective council person Mrs. Hoppe has been. She was able to help diffuse a delicate situation, caused by the architect. She met with the parties involved and found a mutually beneficial solution. Building gets built, neighborhood gets some beautification projects done. The cost for this is much much less than if the building had to be heavily modified.
Sounds like a win win situation.
I noticed you made no suggestion for a better solution. You just threw mud... Yawn.. How boring...
Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me that I wanted to send Barbara some more money for her campaign against you.
Peace... Dan Goldstein

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 22, 2012 | 3:11 p.m.

Look, I know folks are upset about this, but I sure would like to see a point-by-point rebuttal instead of knee-jerk emotional reactions.

If I understand things correctly, the architect and city both screwed up. The fraternity did not screw up. Both the fraternity and the neighborhood association are Hoppe's constituents. There is controversy whether Hoppe supported her fraternity constituents, favoring her politically-active neighborhood association instead. In the end, the fraternity had to pay money, which apparently is undisclosed (why?) but some say was $100K. The money is apparently slated for neighborhood beautification. Please correct any misstatements.

For the time being, I have two problems with this:

(1) The secrecy when both sets of constituents were involved and she was acting as a public figure. As a corollary, if she was acting as a private citizen (attorney) pitting one of her constituents against another, why do this?. Was she paid for her service as an attorney on behalf of one of the constituents?, and
(2) what has overtones of extortion when the fraternity did nothing wrong. My first reaction is that the city and architect should have paid the $100K, not the fraternity.

I'd like to hear unemotional and rational discussions on these points instead of "her opponent skroowed the pooch" comments.

(Report Comment)
Wayne Brekhus March 22, 2012 | 3:33 p.m.

Tillotson ends his misleading commercial by saying that he will serve with integrity. But the kind of "integrity" he has demonstrated is readily apparent in his misleadingly attributing the confidentiality of an agreed upon compromise between two parties as some kind of "shady secret" of Barbara Hoppe's, when in fact the confidentiality agreement was something the architect wanted in its agreement with the East Campus Neighborhood Association, and should be entitled to. Since Tillotson is criticizing Hoppe for honoring a confidentiality agreement and maintaining the rights of the architect and the parties involved, can we assume that Tillotson's idea of "integrity" would be to actively and aggressively violate the confidentiality rights of the constituents he wishes to serve?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 22, 2012 | 3:42 p.m.

Wayne: If Hoppe was acting in an official capacity, why is anything secret?

(Report Comment)
Wayne Brekhus March 22, 2012 | 4:23 p.m.

Michael and others,

I recommend reading the two related media links which the Columbia Missourian has nicely provided. The first link is the claims that Tillotson's volunteer oppositional researchers are making about Hoppe. The second is Hoppe's response to those claims which addresses the advertisement, the claims of the oppositional researchers, and discusses why she was involved in the negotiations and why the agreement is confidential. I think for the point by point you are looking for, Hoppe's press release in the 2nd document covers your questions.

Full disclosure: I live in the 6th Ward and have supported Barbara Hoppe as a private citizen and 6th Ward constituent in her first two elections and will support her again. I think she has done a great job, is an active compromiser, and is responsive to all of her constituents.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 22, 2012 | 4:31 p.m.

Thank you Wayne for helping to find the answers Micheal was looking for.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 22, 2012 | 4:55 p.m.

Wayne: I did read them. I have no direct dog in this fight except insofar as the council composition makes decisions that affect us all. For me, reading the two documents is a "he said, she said" stalemate. I'd prefer an unbiased accounting, but I don't know from whence that would come.

The documents did not address many of my questions. The confidentiality issue puts an unnecessary cloud over Hoppe's head....too many unanswered questions.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 22, 2012 | 5:11 p.m.

Wayne: I re-read Hoppe's letter.

She said the architect and the neighborhood association reached an agreement at a meeting which she did not attend. She DID attend the signing and thereby inserted herself as a public figure into what I consider a "Sunshine" arena.

I infer from all this that the architect paid the money, not the fraternity, but to this point no one knows.

But I still don't understand why the city had no liability in this.

I also don't understand why something that was completely unacceptable to the neighborhood association at one point was, at another point, assuaged by money. Is there a Limbaugh term for that?

Finally, Hoppe says the integrity of the zoning codes were preserved. How so? Is the building too high or not? Did money make it not-too-high? Does money assuage breaking a zoning law?

No. All this did is something many of you abhor....payoffs to get something you want in contravention of a zoning law. How is this any different from what many of you accuse developers????????

Yes, this whole thing stinks, all right, but in a way different from what many of you are portraying.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 22, 2012 | 5:29 p.m.

Mr. Williams comes to this comment section pretending he is the voice of reason. Unfortunately it seems he had no intention of wanting answers, but is commenting just to spread more distortions. I don't have a dog in this fight either, but I can spell BS a mile away.

Why would the architect want to have this confidential? Maybe he didn't want it to get around they screwed up. No one wants to hire an architect that can't get the codes right. They negotiated with the neighborhood, found an agreement, and a variance was given. That's it.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 22, 2012 | 6:36 p.m.

Tim: Maybe he didn't want it to get around they screwed up.
______________________

How'd that work out?

(Report Comment)
Daniel Jordan Jordan March 22, 2012 | 8:24 p.m.

Is Mr. Williams accusing Ms. Hoppe of a Sunshine violation?

'She DID attend the signing and thereby inserted herself as a public figure into what I consider a "Sunshine" arena.'

Is this an accusation of an Open Meetings violation? Last time I checked the law, a meeting of officials does not occur when only one member is present--an official does not hold a "meeting" with herself. What's the theory here?

And anyone who does not understand the importance of confidentiality in business mediation and negotiation--and the law surrounding it--has no business talking about it,

(Report Comment)
Daniel Jordan Jordan March 22, 2012 | 8:42 p.m.

Hey, I got another ad for the Tillotson campaign:

"Hi, I'm Bill Tillotson and I hate settlement! I want people to sue each other and have the courts decide everything! If you come to me for help I'll blab all your business secrets all over town!"

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 22, 2012 | 8:50 p.m.

Daniel: I'm a retired businessman, so I have permission to talk about it. I understand confidentiality.

I also understand how a city official can and should help mediate.

However, I think Ms. Hoppe erred when she inserted herself into a deal involving confidentiality when the city likely assisted in causing this whole problem. There was a conflict of interest because the city was a part of it. She "blessed" this deal and the city was never held accountable so far as we know.

Hence, the sunshine "arena". Was there a violation of the sunshine law? No. She should, however, have stayed away from the final signing because that signing made her privy (for the first time, I assume, but we'll not know) to the confidentiality. She was observing a deal as a public official, not a paid attorney of either party, and that makes her accountable to citizens who question her need for secrecy. If she had been a paid attorney to one of the parties, I would have no problem with this except the city-involvement part. But, apparently she was there as a public official, an observer I presume, and for me that has no immunity from disclosure.

I can only imagine what y'all's posture would be if someone not in your favor had done this. But, I'm confident something similar will happen soon that folks will choke on, and there's always the Missourian archives to mine when it does.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 22, 2012 | 9:19 p.m.

Truth is, Daniel, I really don't care.

I'm just trying to write exactly the same number of posts as letters-to-the-editor in support of Ms. Hoppe that I was forced to endure and scroll on these pages.

It's hard keeping up, I must say.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush March 22, 2012 | 10:13 p.m.

Tale of a man with
No dog in the fight, spamming
That he doesn't care.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 22, 2012 | 10:14 p.m.

Well Mike, I knew your call for rationality was just a ruse. You are really flailing. So the fact of the matter is people who want to use the suck the city dry for their own greed are lying, cheating, and distorting a great public servant.

As for the architect, he probably had no idea that there were people like Tillotson and his supporters who were going to be so pathetic as to use this as a campaign issue.

Hoppe would never stoop as low as him or his supporters, but I will. Why was Tillotson convicted of a Class A misdemeanor and served 1 year of probation? Hey Missourian why don't you check that out. It can't be a leash violation.

(Report Comment)
Wayne Brekhus March 23, 2012 | 10:09 a.m.

Michael,

I guess I don't see how finding a compromise in order to allow a variance for a builder in violation of code who was already so far along in building that to tear down the construction would have been a major problem, is such a bad thing.

The alternatives would be to tear down much of the construction and start over, or to reward the builder with a variance at no cost for moving forward in violation of the code (in which case this would set a precedent whereby developers can simply break the rules and then get automatic permission for a variance after the fact).

My hunch given that most of Tillotson's contributors are developers and real estate management companies and given his voting record on P&Z is that Tillotson would favor the latter alternative to a compromise (let developers and real estate management company landlords break the rules and then rubber stamp any variances or exceptions to following code that they ask for after the fact when they say "oops, we know this isn't allowed but we already did it against code.")

The compromise seems like a reasonable alternative between the two extremes.

Which of the two alternatives to a compromise would you have preferred?

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 23, 2012 | 10:29 a.m.

The law only applies to the rest of us. This city's masters of the universe feel they can break them at will (See Kronke). Hoppe's opponent feels that the law should be broken when it suits them. Someone convicted of a Class A misdemeanor should know better. He's says he's a man of integrity, but his own wife wants people to cheat on an online poll.

Hopefully the Missourian will investigate Tillotson's criminal record and the gaming of an online poll and not wait for a press release.

(Report Comment)
Harold Sutton March 24, 2012 | 9:19 a.m.

Wish I knew where the truth really lies. I definitely will not be able to discern it from all the opinions offered here. And I am not even a resident!!
So, forget about any commentor trying to enlighten me. I am now just reading for the entertainment.

(Report Comment)

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