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Lee’s Summit city council meetings have been extremely contentious over the past eight months. Two council members have even called on each other to resign. One of them, Chris Moreno, is facing a recall election because some people are unhappy with his conduct at council meetings. But he remains steadfast. He talks here about his preparation for council meetings and how he deals with the criticism.
Q: On the day of the council meetings, what do you do to prepare? Do you have a ritual?
A: I just do a lot of studying. I do a lot of prayer, a lot of thinking about the agenda and the topic itself. I play a lot of worship music throughout my breaks.
Q: Interesting. When you were first elected, did you have to do an orientation on things like how to make a motion and how to debate?
A: Yeah, Robert’s Rules of Order and all that good stuff. I was a debater in high school, so I kind of knew [that stuff].
Q: Where did the debating team stand in the social hierarchy in your high school?
A: I was a basketball guy. I loved basketball and so when I was introduced to debate, I kind of was like, “this is not for me.” But I loved the challenge. I loved public speaking. Playing sports, my friends–I loved them all, but we weren’t exactly straight-A students, you know?
Q: Gotcha. So, it came out last year that allegedly Council Member Diane Forte improperly got city contracts for her own business. You were very critical of her and it bled over into the council meetings. You said this about her:
I personally do not believe that after the lies you told to the cameras and to this body, that this can continue to go on.
Here was her response:
To come on this council and try to destroy relationships that I have built in this city–if anyone’s going to resign, it’s not going to be me! It’s going to be you!
How do you think the other council members and staff felt while this was going on?
A: The context of this was: that was four weeks later and she was refusing to acknowledge her illegal business deals. For me, this isn’t personal. For me, it’s about government. We should not have politicians profiting off of taxpayer dollars.
Q: You are facing a recall election in April. Can you think of anything you said–or the way in which you said it–at the council meetings that you would have done differently?
A: No. I think I actually was more courteous than what I should have been. I couldn’t say right then and there, “you have deals that violated state law.” Looking back, I wish I would have.
Q: You once called the public comment at your council meetings a “Jerry Springer Show.” What would you do to reform it?
A: We have these people coming in with an agenda: to personally attack politicians on grounds that have nothing to do with city business. That being said, I’m not opposed to criticism. They have a right to do it. But we should not allow for a political campaign to take place at the dais.
Follow Council Member Chris Moreno on Twitter: @MorenoDadKC