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Judge orders Paul permanently reinstated as Ellisville mayor

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 1, 2013 -A St. Louis County judge permanently reinstated Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul, a move that could end the impeachment saga that has gripped the suburban town.

“This is the never-ending story and it’s finally coming to an end,” Paul said. “And it’s got a good ending, I think."

On Monday, St. Louis County Circuit Judge David Vincent III wrote that he “finds that the City Council’s removal hearing violated Paul’s due process rights and was made upon unlawful process.”

As a result, Vincent wrote, the council's impeachment resolution was reversed and Paul was ordered reinstated.

After the order had been handed down, Paul’s lawyer – Chet Pleban – told reporters that the judgment and order meant that Paul was permanently reinstated. Paul was temporarily reinstated last month after Vincent ruled that Ellisville City Council followed improper procedures in removing in from office.

Specifically, Vincent ruled that the council had removed Paul from office too soon after an impeachment resolution had been amended to change some  allegations against him.

Vincent’s move today came as a surprise. Attorneys had expected to argue on a motion to reconsider Paul’s reinstatement. But Pleban said, “Frankly when we began to talk about it in chambers, we talked about whether the procedural defect here was so bad that we could argue this until the cows come home – and it’s not going to change anything.”

Paul told reporters that he was pleased with the decision, but emphasized the court fight was avoidable.

“Even though we won in the courts today, I don’t consider this a win for myself and I don’t consider it a win for the citizens of Ellisville,” Paul said. “We’ve been saying all along this could be circumvented and this process should never have happened. And getting that ruling today was unexpected, but very well taken.

Appeal unlikely?

The Ellisville City Council had voted 5-1 to oust Paul on April 8 -- roughly a year after he took office -- amid allegations of his misuse of power, such as asking the police chief if the mayor gets a badge and a gun.

Paul denied any wrongdoing. He and his allies have maintained that the impeachment was prompted by his opposition to tax breaks for a new Wal-Mart.

While Vincent’s order could hypothetically be appealed to the Eastern District Court of Appeals, Pleban said such a move would require a vote from the Ellisville City Council. And Paul appears to have enough support on the council after the April elections to prevent that from happening.

Paul said, “If the council decided to appeal this, the city would riot.”

Pirrello did not return a message from the Beacon. Neither did John Maupin, a private attorney hired to represent the city in the matter.

“I can’t speak on behalf of the council, but I can speak on behalf of myself,” Paul said. “And I’ve been saying since day one that we’ve given the council several opportunities to stop the bleeding all along the way.”

Pleban took things a step further when he added that he thought it would be an impeachable offense for any councilperson to vote to appeal this decision.

“In my judgment, it would be a total breach of their fiduciary responsibility,” Pleban said. “Because it would entail an additional expenditure of $50,000, $75,000 or it may be $100,000 worth of funds.”

Pleban and Paul both said that a civil lawsuit against Pirrello, former Ellisville city attorney Paul Martin and Ellisville city manager Kevin Bookout is still ongoing.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.