A group of Lee’s Summit residents have created a political action committee they hope will remove city councilman Chris Moreno from office.
The PAC was filed Wednesday by ‘Lee’s Summit Citizens For Responsible Government.’ It aims for residents of the city’s District 4 to demand a recall election next April in order to remove Moreno from city council.
"He has become a major blemish on the city,” said Kent Ruehter, spokesman for the PAC. "When I see somebody that is a bully and is only serving their own best interests, I just can't sit by and watch that any longer."
The petition lists several reasons residents should consider removing Moreno, stating the “intimidation of citizens, elected officials and business owners, repeated misconduct in office, suspicious campaign finances and abuse of power.”
"It really makes me wonder, why does he think we're going to put up with another three and a half years of this,” said Ruehter. "He has made it his mission to go after anyone who speaks out against him."
Moreno spoke with 41 Action News Thursday afternoon. He said he’s done nothing wrong and that the PAC isn’t accurate.
"Their petition to recall me is simply because they don't like me,” said the first-term councilman. "They filed an ethics complaint against me. The ethics commission rejected it."
Some residents filed a complaint to the Missouri Ethics Commission regarding a set of questionable emails sent by Moreno to other council members earlier this year. However, the commission referred those complaints to the Attorney General’s Office who found no wrongdoing.
Residents are also upset over Moreno’s decision to ignore public comments against him during city council meetings.
Others note his history of court cases against him, most notably earlier this year in which Moreno filed for bankruptcy.
However, Moreno believes the root of his opposition lies in two hard stances he took shortly after he took office in April, and said he’s done nothing against the law.
The same month he took office, Moreno publicly spoke out against Target’s bathroom policy allowing transgender shoppers to use the bathroom of their choice. And in July, after learning Diane Forte's business took illegal bids from the city, received heat after calling for the resignation of his fellow council member.
"I'm proud of the leadership I've displayed and I don't regret any of those decisions,” said Moreno. "The recall is set forth for, is set aside, for extreme instances of illegal behavior. We have someone on council that's displayed illegal behavior. They're not recalling her. We have other people on the council that have had judgments or issues against them in the past. They're not recalling them. They're singling me out. And I think at the end of the day the voters will see exactly why."
Moreno said he’s also proud of his accomplishments during his short time in office.
"We put an end to illegal business deals in our city. We put an end to no-bid contracts in our city, which was honestly a problem. We actually passed over one billion dollars of economic development in our city. I helped lead the over-ride of a mayor's veto, which we were successful on, which will bring 500,000 square feet of industrial space our city has been badly needing."
However, Ruehter is confident there are more than enough people to sign the petition, forcing a re-vote that would force Moreno out of office.
"I don't think it will be a problem whatsoever. There are a lot of motivated people behind this cause and it shouldn't take any time at all,” said Ruehter. "I hope the end result is that this is his first and last elected position."
The PAC needs 522 signatures from Lee’s Summit’s District 4 (Moreno’s district) within the next 60 days to force a recall ballot April 2017.
"I think the voters are gonna side once again with my positive message of what we've done for the city versus their over-personal, negative, quite honestly, gutter politics,” said Moreno.
Not sure if you’re in District 4? Check out the map below:
Josh Helmuth can be reached at email@example.com