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Council reviews ethics complaint against Fisk

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Springfield City Council will investigate a conflict of interest complaint filed against Councilwoman Jan Fisk, the mayor said at the end of last night’s council meeting.

At issue is a Missouri Ethics Commission complaint filed in November 2018, alleging Fisk violated city charter by inappropriately receiving financial benefits from the city in her capacity as co-founder of J. Howard Fisk Limousines Inc.

Mayor Ken McClure last night said the review was brought about by a letter he received yesterday from seven council members: Richard Ollis, Andrew Lear, Matthew Simpson, Thomas Prater, Mike Schilling, Craig Hosmer and Fisk. Councilwoman Phyllis Ferguson and McClure did not sign the request. Reached this morning, Simpson deferred questions on the timing of the investigation to McClure. The mayor could not be reached immediately for comment by deadline.

Fisk followed McClure’s announcement last night with a statement.

“Before running for council seven years ago, I sought legal guidance from the city attorney about potential conflicts of interest or even perceived conflicts that might impact my ability to serve,” said Fisk, who’s also mayor pro tem. “Fisk Transportation, my husband, my son, my family are all once again being attacked by allegations that I want to have clarified and I want to respond to.”

The November 2018 MEC complaint, filed by retired litigation paralegal and community activist Linda Simkins, seeks to remove Fisk from office, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

The complaint points out two low bids from Fisk Limousines on city contracts in 2012 and 2013 after Fisk was appointed to council.

Fisk is accused of violating a statute in city charter dubbed “officers and employees interested in contracts.” The statute prohibits council members and city employees from having a “financial interest, direct or indirect, in any contract with the city, or be financially interested, directly or indirectly, in the sale to the city of any land, materials, supplies or services, except on behalf of the city as an officer or employee.”

Council’s investigation into the MEC complaint was unexpected, as the item was not listed on last night’s agenda.

“I would like to ask my colleagues to join me in requesting a full review to properly assess the situation,” Fisk said. “I will fully cooperate with any inquiry and hope that such a process will bring clarity not only on this current circumstance but also for those wishing to serve our community as elected officials in the future.

“It is my sincere hope that we can use this as an opportunity to fully review the orientation process for new council members, but would also like to suggest a citizen-led effort to review the city charter and make recommendations to City Council about what steps might bring more clarity to those wishing to serve our community as elected officials in the future.”

City spokeswoman Cora Scott said the timeline for the process and selection of a hearing examiner has not yet been determined.

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