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Council ends Fisk investigation

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Springfield City Council voted unanimously last night to end the investigation into conflict-of-interest allegations facing Councilperson Jan Fisk.

Mayor Ken McClure pointed to a letter signed by all council members “requesting the withdrawal of a request for referral to a hearing examiner of allegations of misconduct on the part of council member Jan Fisk.” He cited two voluntary actions taken by Fisk on Nov. 2, when she amended her financial disclosure forms and paid the city $3,453 in the name of J. Howard Fisk Limousines Inc.

Fisk was accused by a whistleblower of allegedly benefiting financially from her role as co-founder of Fisk Limousines through a city contract involving the company. Allegations also have involved private interest in Galloway Village blight legislation and tax payments on properties Fisk owns with her husband and son, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

At council’s Nov. 2 meeting, Fisk denied any wrongdoing and said she made the nearly $3,500 payment to the city because it represents the sum anyone could reasonably believe she or her family gained through the alleged activity. She also said she disclosed personal financial information to avoid any public confusion about the allegations raised against her.

“To avoid even the perception of wrongdoing, I return those funds to the city that every citizen in Springfield can rest assured that no public funds benefited me or my family,” Fisk said. “An allegation of misconduct can be as damning and damaging to a councilperson and to the city as actual misconduct.”

Fisk reiterated a prior stance that the city’s charter and code should be “reviewed and revised so that the city, the council and our citizens know clearly what their rights, responsibilities and duties are.”

At last night’s meeting, Councilperson Mike Schilling agreed that Fisk’s situation brought to light the need to update the city charter and code.

“I think this brings to a head the need to take a look at our ethics ordinance. We have had two of these ethics cases within the last few years and they have drug on and on and cost tens of thousands of dollars,” Schilling said, noting he’d like to see a simplified process where council could address similar allegations without hiring an attorney.

Councilperson Andrew Lear said last night he was not happy with the outcome of the case, despite saying he has high regard for Fisk.

“Almost two years ago, eight members of council signed a referral letter regarding these allegations, including council member Fisk, who stated at the time that she welcomed the opportunity for a hearing to resolve these issues,” Lear said, noting the council resolution approved yesterday “unfortunately” means the hearing will not occur.

“However, due to the nature of the discovery presented in this case and the unlikelihood of a clear, convincing or timely resolution, it is apparent to me that there will be no better conclusion reached than that this evening.”

In October 2019, the city hired retired Webster County Associate Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Thompson as the hearing examiner, though a scheduled administrative hearing to discuss the allegations was canceled this summer.

Springfield spokesperson Cora Scott said the city paid roughly $117,000 in fees for council’s attorney and the hearing examiner’s time over the past two years.

Fisk has announced she will not be running for reelection in April 2021.

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