Impeachment proceedings have begun against a Hannibal City Council member as Mayor James Hark has drafted articles of impeachment against 3rd Ward Council member Stephan Franke.
Hark alleges Franke violated his oath of office while acting in his capacity as a City Council member by physically assaulting both City Clerk Angelica Zerbonia and City Manager Lisa Peck. The Articles of Impeachment say Franke grabbed the arms of both women “in a non-consensual manner”, causing pain to the city manager.
Hark said Franke’s actions in office “constituted oppression in office and such further constituted an infamous crime.” The articles also state that in his actions as councilman, “Franke has made statements to female employees of the city which constitute sexual harassment, and which created a hostile workplace” for those female workers.
Council has initially set a public hearing on the Articles of Impeachment for March 1st during the regular city council meeting. That date will likely be changed however as at least two council members will be absent from that meeting. Council also gave approval for the employment of a special prosecutor to handle the impeachment for the city after City Attorney James Lemon said he would have a conflict of interest. Franke will be allowed to have legal representation as well.
In explaining the procedure, Lemon said Municipal Court Judge Donald M Bastian will preside over the hearing but will not render judgment. That chore will be left to the City Council. Since he wrote the Articles of Impeachment, Mayor Hark will not be able to vote. That leaves five council members eligible to vote and conviction requires a 2/3 majority. Three of five would only be 60 percent, so four of the five must vote to impeach.
Should Franke be convicted, Council will likely appoint a resident of the Third Ward to fill the vacant seat until the next municipal election in April of 2023. Franke is in the first year of a three year term.
In other action Tuesday night, council approved the appointment of Ryan Neisen as Fire Chief. Neisen succeeds Mike Benjamin who is retiring on January 21st. Benjamin has been with HPD since 1989. Neisen, the current Deputy Fire Chief, has been with the department since 2002.
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