JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Ethics Commission ruled that a mailer distributed just ahead of a vote on a $19 million bond for Maryland Heights Fire Protection District violated Missouri election laws.
Last August, Maryland Heights voters were asked to consider a $19 million bond issue for their fire protection district. The money was set to fund new equipment like air tanks, fire trucks, ambulances and, most predominantly, a new engine house on Dorsett Ave.
Just ahead of the election, a mailer was circulated claiming the measure would cost taxpayers “hundreds” over the next five years, and the mailer suggested that many of the proposed improvements were unnecessary. When the measure narrowly lost on the primary ballot, the board of the Maryland Heights Fire Protection District filed a complaint with the MEC, because the mailer had no “paid for by” disclosure, which Missouri law requires.
“House 2 was built in the early 1970’s, newer than most of the houses in Maryland Heights,” the flyer said on the issue of a new engine house. “Would you have a new house if someone else paid for it?”
Local firefighters believe that the malicious mailer swayed the close election and caused voters to question the necessity of the bond. There is also speculation that the mailer, which was printed by Printing Center LLC on behalf of Ronda Weiss, was designed as revenge aimed at the fire district and the local fire fighters for not supporting Weiss’ husband in his recently failed campaign for a seat on the Fire District’s Board of Directors.
The Maryland Heights Fire District was confident that they could show voters that the bond issue was necessary and appropriate after moving against Weiss’ mailer, and moved to once again place it on the ballot.
In November, Prop B passed, and the fire district got their bond. The MEC did not level any fines or penalties against either party, but sent an official letter to Printing Center and cataloged the violation for the public record.
Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CMReischman