Lee's Summit councilwoman accused of violating state law, not bidding out contracts

Posted at 9:37 PM, Jul 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-07 23:26:09-04

Lee's Summit Councilwoman Diane Forte is under fire for not bidding out contracts and making a personal profit. 

Forte resigned from her position as the City Council liaison to the Lee's Summit Park Board after an investigation showed Forte didn't bid out contracts she should have. 

Forte said it was an honest mistake. 

"Did I know it had not been bid? I wasn't aware. I wasn't aware of the statute violation, no," she said.

Forte owns her own trophy and engraving business called Diane Forte Enterprises. Previously, she was part-owner of Lee's Summit-based Dean's Trophies. 

Forte said she did business with the Parks department when she was apart of Dean's Trophies, so it still seemed like a "natural fit."

"I had sold to Parks and Rec in my previous business that same award every year. So in 2015, when it came time, it just seemed a natural fit," she explained. 

The state statute allows an elected official to do business, but if the cost is more than $500, the job must be bid out and awarded to the lowest and most competitive bid. 

Two of the jobs Forte did were not bid out and cost well over $500. Documents show one job was for $768 and the other for more than $1,000. 

Forte said her former business, or other local businesses who may have wanted the opportunities, didn't cross her mind. 

"I guess I just never thought about that," she said. "It was an award I had done."

The part-owner of Dean's Trophies is not happy with the city of Lee's Summit and the thousands he said he's lost out on since Forte was elected to the council in 2014. 

"I’ve reached out to the city and let them know my concerns, and they’ve been ignored," said Dean's Trophies owner Jamey Suddarth. 

Suddarth said this problem goes beyond Forte, and he expects better support from the city. 

"It is about the business, it’s about being fair. If we were allowed to bid those contracts and we were higher and she got them after that, I would understand, but we didn't get the opportunity after having a lot of their business for many years."

The city of Lee's Summit is still in the process of compiling information and documents in response to local media requests. A representative said the matters are not enforceable by the city but up to the determination of the Missouri Ethics Commission. 



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