Hire of new city attorney leads to protest

A child stands in front of city hall protesting the hire of city attorney Neil Bruntrager on Tuesday, Nov. 18, in front of Webster Groves City Hall. Photo by Ethan Weihl

Almost 100 protesters gathered outside of city hall on Tuesday, prior to a city council meeting, to protest the hire of Neil Bruntrager.

Bruntrager previously represented Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown shooting case, as well as Jason Stockley, who was acquitted in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.

An open letter on change.org, which currently has 430 signatures, calls for change in the hiring practices of the city. According to this open letter, they feel that “the hire has led to community-wide revelations about the limitations of the hiring process that underscore the need for some revision and additional safeguards.”

This open letter calls for a change to the city charter which would eliminate the residency requirement for city attorney (Bruntrager is a Webster Groves resident), diversification and expansion of the pool of applicants as well as training for the mayor, city manager, city attorney and city council “that will help leadership understand the roles that systems and institutions like municipal government play in maintaining racial disparity and inequity.”

The letter also calls for a “representative of the community who has training in racial equity principles or is representative of a community group or non-profit dedicated to racial equity and community relations in Webster Groves” to join the personnel board and be involved in any significant hiring decisions.

Mayor Gerry Welch has taken issue with the last provision. While she did tell the Webster-Kirkwood Times that “[The city council and I have] been talking about the residency requirement and how we might move forward,” she also feels that allowing a community group to have a say in the hiring of city officials would be “a complete and utter change in the way in which we operate.”

At the council meeting, council member Pam Bliss stated she wants to put an end to the residency requirement on the August 2019 ballot, according to the Webster-Kirkwood Times.

Bruntrager has already begun his work as city attorney.

 

Ethan Weihl – News Editor 

This is news editor Ethan Weihl’s first year on ECHO staff. He is excited to begin his work on the ECHO. He has not decided on college yet, but he wants to major in Political Science and Journalism.

 


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