Mayor Brian Treece would neither confirm nor deny Monday night whether he had asked Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas to resign.
Conversation among Columbia residents on Facebook said Treece asked for Thomas’ resignation after he was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly attempting to commit a prohibited act by an elected official.
Thomas has admitted promising developers support for their project in exchange for a contribution to the Columbia Community Land Trust to promote affordable housing. The deal was quashed, however, when he learned it would be illegal.
The post shared by Leigh Anne Lockhart said, “Our most progressive City Councilman, Ian Thomas, has been asked by Mayor Brian Treece to resign.” It also urged those willing to write to the mayor and ask that he reconsider.
The Missourian asked Treece twice after the Columbia City Council’s pre-meeting work session Monday night whether it was true that he had asked Thomas to step down. He said only that the council had issued a statement on the matter and that it speaks for itself.
Five members of the council did issue a statement Sept. 6 condemning Thomas’ actions in trying to negotiate for a payment from developers to the Columbia Community Land Trust to support affordable housing.
The statement said nothing about asking Thomas to step down.
“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 statement 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 statement 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.
Only Peters and Pitzer responded to repeated phone calls Tuesday.
“I don’t know of anyone who asked the city councilman (Thomas) to resign. That Facebook post was an error as far as I know,” Peters said.
Pitzer said he was unaware of any talk about Thomas resigning.
Richard King, a close supporter of and campaign treasurer for Thomas, was scheduled to talk to the council during Monday night’s regular meeting about “transparent government.” In the end, he did not attend, and Tuesday he deferred to Thomas for comment.
Thomas is scheduled for a case review Oct. 3 in associate circuit court and for a jury trial Oct. 24.