Jerry Wilkerson, the Auxvasse man who hoped to land on the Board of Aldermen there by write-in vote, was found ineligible for office by 13th Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler due to unpaid utility fees in a special hearing 10 a.m. today at the Callaway County Courthouse.
Wilkerson filed a writ of mandamus to the circuit court to force Callaway County Clerk Denise Hubbard to count votes for him, saying his application for write-in candidacy was unfairly terminated over bills that were not owed or had already been paid.
"The Court finds that Petitioner Wilkerson was and is in arrears in the payment of municipal user fees as of the last day to file as described in Section 115.346 RSMO (and as extended by the County Clerk to March 29 at 5 p.m.)," Oxenhandler wrote in his judgment as it appeared in online court documents through Missouri Case.net. "Writ denied."
Wilkerson said he disagreed with the decision but it was Oxenhandler's decision "over a sewer bill I don't owe and never owed, and I'll never pay it."
"I've never used the service and they're not going to get around this little escapade they pulled on me, but that's the way it goes," he said. "Other than that, it's a good day."
Wilkerson originally faced question on whether he could run due to his status as a convicted felon. After checking with the Secretary of State's office, Wilkerson said he was found to be eligible to run due to a loophole in state law that allows felons to hold office in certain small municipalities.
Though his declaration of intent to run was originally accepted by the County Clerk, Wilkerson's eligibility came under question again in late March when the city of Auxvasse reported to Hubbard that Wilkerson owed the city money for utility fees, which disqualified him for office. Hubbard confirmed the ruling April 4.
Wilkerson filed and was given an expedited hearing to argue his case this morning, but failed to convince the judge in the face of utility records presented by the city and Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Wilson.
Wilson presented evidence submitted from the city that Wilkerson had unpaid sewer and trash fees at a number of properties in city limits that used city services, including trailers off County Road 262, a rental home on Maple Street and his personal home on Elm Street.
The county first called Mike Bertschinger, Auxvasse city supervisor and former alderman, who testified he visited the rental trailers off of County Road 262 April 4 at Wilkerson's request. Bertschinger said that, though the trailer hooked directly into the city sewer line appeared as of April 4 to be only in use as storage, two other trailers had runoff lines that appeared to run into that trailer.
Wilkerson said that the other trailers ran into their own sewer system and were unconnected to city lines. After Bertschinger testified that the city's sewer rates are calculated based on water usage from Callaway 2 Water District, Wilkerson argued that none of the trailers are on county water.
Wilkerson could produce no documentation citing so. He also did not subpoena former City Supervisor Justin Feger, saying "I didn't know this was going to be as drawn out an affair as it was."
The county then called City Clerk Missy Hooks, who testified that following a verbal agreement in 2013 after speaking with the Board of Aldermen, Wilkerson signed a waiver stating he would pay off the approximately $171 bill in monthly installments from October through February. Hooks told Wilson that the accounts were delinquent as of the deadline.
Wilkerson argued that the installment plan was not in delinquency, but told Oxenhandler he could not produce evidence to support that claim.
Wilkerson, who represented himself, also became argumentative with some witnesses and failed to follow a number of evidence procedures, drawing criticism from Oxenhandler.
"The beauty of our system of government is that all elections are treated as important," Oxenhandler said. "We're here, Mr. Wilkerson, because you filed a piece of paper I could hardly read, saying you were not being treated fairly by the process of election. We take that seriously. Moments like this in our system gives us a great moment of pause, because if this were in Ukraine or Afghanistan or somewhere out east, there wouldn't be a hearing like this."
In closing, Wilson said the county clerk's job "is not to impede voters from voting for who they want, but she has a legal obligation to make sure candidates are qualified under state law. Frankly you heard as much if not more than Denise Hubbard had been informed of (Wilkerson's) debt ... At the end of the day, we're left with unpaid user fees with two statutes that state he can't have unpaid fees."
Wilkerson responded, saying "with respect to the court, I still do not owe sewer bills, I tried to dissolve them and pay for them in a timely manner. This is a problem that's been going on for 33 years. Other than that, I have nothing else to say."
Wilkerson said he planned to run next year for Auxvasse mayor, and he was "going to get the city straightened out on their lies and innuendos."
With the ruling, incumbent Stephanie Leverett remains unopposed.