Emails regarding Lee's Summit councilwoman's business lead to trouble, questions for council

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. - The Lee’s Summit City Council is dealing with troubling emails that have gone public. They include conversations regarding Councilwoman Diane Forte and business she did with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department that broke state law. 

 At Thursday’s council meeting, leaders bickered back and forth about Forte and her role on council. 

“If anybody is going to resign up here, it’s not going to be me. Mr. Moreno, it’s going to be you,’ yelled Forte after Moreno requested she step down from her position on council. 

Forte owns Diane Forte Enterprises, a trophy and engraving company. Emails prove she was intentionally given work by the Parks and Recreation Department. Last week, Forte resigned from her role as council liaison to the Parks department. 

“What I have done with Parks may look bad, and I’m sorry,” Forte told the public and council members. 

If a council person does work with the city and it’s a job worth more than $500, state law requires the work to be bid out for the lowest price. 

Forte admits to taking at least two orders that were more than $500 and not bid out. 

Jamey Suddarth is a Lee’s Summit small business owner negatively impacted by the situation. 

“I’m shocked,” Suddarth said Thursday. 

He owns Dean’s Trophies, where Forte used to be part owner until 2013. 

In 2013, Dean’s Trophies brought in more than $8,000 in city business. Last year, that number dropped to just $269. 

Suddarth sent an email questioning the city. In it, a city employee forwarded it on and asked, “I’m sure this in reference to the VIP awards Jamey always does. Tom made Pat go through Diane F.”

41 Action News questioned Tom Lovell, the administrator of Parks and Recreation. We asked if he felt the department favored Forte. 

“Actually, I wouldn’t characterize it that way at all. She is one of the vendors that has been working with our city and Parks department for numerous years,” he said. 

In another email regarding Forte’s work, the Parks and Recreation superintendent of administration writes, “The problem is paying Diane. There is a disclosure requirement since she is a councilman. If the Foundation pays, no issue.”

There are more than 7,000 emails now open to the public. The information in the emails is why Moreno stands by his request for Forte to step down. 

“The emails clearly say they are to take business from one business, in this case Dean’s Trophies, and to shift it to Diane Forte Enterprises. That’s intentional. There is an email from Diane that says, 'Send me their numbers and I will get you mine.' That is intentionally underbidding, that is intentionally rigging the system,” Moreno explained. 

No action was taken Thursday night. Forte did not resign. 

The city manager told 41 Action News he is making a recommendation that no City Council person can do business with any city department. 

The council will discuss that recommendation next month. 

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Lexi Sutter can be reached at lexi.sutter@kshb.com.

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