Mayor Brian Treece and four other Columbia City Council members released a joint statement Friday afternoon regarding the misdemeanor filed against Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas.
“As members of the Columbia City Council, we expect open, honest and transparent government. We commend city staff for having the courage to report their concerns about this breach of public trust,” the release said. ”There is no rationale that would ever make it acceptable for an elected official to request any payment in exchange for a favorable vote. These allegations, and resulting charges, taint the integrity of our democracy and undermine public confidence.”
The email sent to the Missourian was signed by Treece, First Ward Councilman Clyde Ruffin, Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala, Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Betsy Peters. Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp did not sign it.
Trapp told the Missourian on Thursday that he supports Thomas and his wife.
Thomas is charged with a misdemeanor for negotiating a quid pro quo with two developers last year, Cole County Prosecutor Locke Thompson confirmed Thursday. The charge is attempting to commit an act prohibited by a public official for offering to lend his support to a development project if the developers supported affordable housing.
Thompson said in an email to the Missourian on Friday that it took him four months to file the charge because there were multiple “moving parts” and because the offense for which Thomas is accused is uncommon. It took time, he said, to figure out exactly what to charge him with.
Thomas has admitted publicly that he negotiated the deal, which was quashed when City Counselor Nancy Thompson advised Thomas that it would be illegal.
Although Trapp faces no charge, he is named in the probable cause statement that Boone County Sheriff’s Detective David Wilson filed with the special prosecutor. The statement says that Thomas and Trapp asked Shannon Sapp and Justin Barnes, the would-be developers of the Oakland Crossings neighborhood just north of Columbia, to contribute $242 for each lot in the subdivision — or a total of $40,000 to the Columbia Community Land Trust — to promote affordable housing.
Trapp, a member of the land trust’s board of directors, also was copied on some of the emails Thomas exchanged with the developers.