City of Hannibal will not move forward with impeachment case against Hannibal councilman

Franke 3rd Ward Hannibal

Stephan Franke

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Mayor Pro Tem Mike Dobson announced Tuesday night at the Hannibal City Council meeting that impeachment charges against Councilman Stephan Franke will not be pursued.

The impeachment case, which was filed by former Mayor James Hark in January 2022, was dropped by Judge John J. Jackson on June 6 stating the city willfully failed to comply with the rules of criminal procedure.

Dobson confirmed on July 5 at the Hannibal City Council meeting he would request for a judge to rehear impeachment charges against Franke. 

A judgment signed by Jackson on Aug. 7 cited Hannibal City Charter 18(b) did not allow Dobson to refile in the case in place of Hark. He would instead need to partner with another councilman to file the impeachment. 

Tuesday night, April Azotea, owner of La Azotea Lounge in Hannibal, asked Dobson if the case will be refiled. Dobson responded no. 

Dobson read a statement he prepared after a conversation with attorney Robert Jones, who represented the city in the impeachment case, on Aug. 11 where he informed Jones they discussed the cost associated with it.

“I told him that we no longer wish to pursue the issue as we are looking out for our constituents and the cost to the city. The path seemed to be far away before the council would get to hear the impeachment trial.

“Since the Hannibal City Charter calls out to the rules of criminal procedure to follow, the attorneys fees were not awarded that would have cost the city what has been termed to be the sum of a life-changing sum of money.

“The trial never was about if Councilman Franke did or did not do what he was accused of. His attorney chose the path to poke holes in the Hannibal City Charter and bury the city under a mountain of Sunshine Law requests and looking for a conspiracy against Councilman Franke.

“They even claim that searches on iPads and cell phones had too narrow of a scope, and that additional words should have been used in the search. 

“No conspiracy theory was found so they contended that since Councilman McCoy refused to give up his phone and Miss Zerbonia’s phone was returned in a condition that could not be read, that it was contempt because two people’s devices were not read. 

“Would they have us believe that Councilman McCoy and Ms. Zerbonia had conversations between the two them that would prove a conspiracy? Sure there were delays in filing sunshine requests, as Miss Zerbonia was out on medical leave.

“Miss Cogdal was trying to do her job and the city clerk’s job while trying to comply with all of the requests. 

“Now let us talk about right and wrong, I recently saw a movie called (Jesus Revolution). The movie was based in the 1960s about hippies finding Jesus in a church where they were seen as misfits.

“The line that stuck out in that movie to me that applies to this case is that “the truth is quiet but lies are loud.”

“I have sat up here before you meeting after meeting not being able to tell you about the case but now that the case is over I can be transparent and tell you the truth.

“Early on Mayor Hark asked for an independent police investigation to be conducted by the Hannibal Police Department. The HPD interviewed Councilman Franke and in that interview, he admitted to physical contact between him and Miss Zerbonia and in the case of City Manager Lisa Peck, he stated he didn’t remember the incident.

“My biggest takeaway is that Councilman Franke and his attorneys have put the City of Hannibal through the ringer and have wasted massive amounts of time and energy. The city has spent $73,960.60 in this case.

“I have heard rumors that Councilman Franke has spent well-over $200,000 on this case to defend himself for a job that pays $200 a month. If it would have been me who was accused, I would have apologized to the two ladies and then resigned. 

“I will say it again. The truth is quiet and the lies are loud.

“We have read about lies for months now and the truth has finally come out quietly,” Dobson read.

Azotea rebutted Dobsons’ accusation that Frank’s attorney tried to “bury the city in sunshine requests.”

“I don’t think there is a limit to how many sunshine request you can file. On top of that, there is a state law that says you have an X amount of time to respond to those requests. Even if it’s not able to be fulfilled,” she said. “Not responding or fulfilling any of those in over a year, is just insane to even say that.”

Franke said Dobson’s statement was news to him, and he disagreed that the sunshine and discovery requests were a ploy to bury the city. According to Franke, Dobson indicated he “got off on a technicality” for requesting public information he is legally entitled to.

“I need that information to defend myself and according to him, it made me a bad guy for asking for it,” Franke said.

In other business:

  • The council approved a resolution authorizing the mayor the execute a $15,000 engineering service agreement between the city of Hannibal and allied Engineering Services, LLC for the boundary and topographic survey of Riverview Park.
  • The council approved a resolution supporting the City of Hannibal’s 2023 transportation alternatives program grant to rebuild sidewalk along Market street in front of Eugene Field School and St. John’s Lutheran School and providing the assurance of the city’s ability and intent to make the requisite 20% match toward the grant.
  • The council approved an ordinance revising Chpat 9, Sections 9-28 and 9-186 of the ordinances of the the City of Hannibal regarding drainage and flood control.
  • The council approved that the city manager report be on the ballet for voters to decide. They also approved to update the ordinance requiring the city manager to make a monthly report. Attorney James Lemon said there is no conflict that both were approved, but the council might later vote to take it off the ballet.
  • Trevor McDonald from Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau discussed the Fiscal Year 2024 Website Maintenance Agreement.
  • Hal Benedict of Hannibal Regional Economic Council gave up an update on HREDC. An in-depth story will follow on this.

Street Closures Approved:

  • Debbie Higby-Roberts from Hannibal Public School approved for a street closure from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 23 for the 74th annual Band Day.
  • Brant Dooley from Hannibal Jaycees approved for a street closure from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9 for 3rd annual Car Show.
  • Trisha O’Cheltree from Historic Hannibal approved for street closure on from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 31 for Trunk or Treat. Also approved for street closure from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 28 for Living Dead Windows.
  • Anna Lemon from Strings to Mend approved for street closure from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 7 for Music Under the Stars.

Appointments:

  • Library Board: Joy McPike- Appointment for a term to expire June 2026
  • Hannibal Housing Authority: Kyra Belcher – Appointment for a term to expire April 2027
  • Board of Adjustements: Tom Batenhorst – Appointment for a term to expire May 2026, Cole Painter – Appointment for a term to expire May 2028, Richard Ferrell- Appointment for a term to expire May 2028

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