Retired judge appointed to look into conflict of interest allegations against Fisk

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. At Monday night's city council meeting council member Jan Fisk, who's been serving for over seven years, threw her support behind a bill that was looking into allegations of her own wrongdoing.

"Although I must recuse myself because this resolution is about me, I fully support it and I look forward to resolving this matter," said Springfield City Council member Jan Fisk.

As she left her seat after giving that blessing, the rest of the city council voted to appoint retired Webster Co. judge Kenneth Thompson to hold a hearing on a conflict of interest allegation against Fisk.

It's the final review in a series of examinations that's included the Missouri Ethics Commission and an outside attorney hired by the city after a series of citizen complaints by local activist Linda Simkins.

The attorney, special counsel Kevin O' Keefe, did not recommend proceeding with most of the complaints against Fisk that ranged from conflicts of interest regarding rental properties to late property tax payments.

"I'm very pleased that many of the complaints were without merit," Fisk said.

That left just one allegation for the judge to consider as directed by the city council

That accusation says that when a Kansas City limousine company outsourced its contract with the Springfield city government to Fisk Limousines, which is owned by Jan and her husband, it was an indirect conflict of interest for the council member.

Fisk showed us a timeline from the city attorney which supports her claim she had checked on any possible conflict of interest before accepting the outsourcing.

"At the time the city manager and city attorney assured me that there would be no conflict of interest in the way they interpreted it," she said.

"The issue goes back to what is a 'direct' or 'indirect' benefit as the charger describes," Springfield mayor Ken McClure added. "That's unclear."

That lack of clarity is what the judge is expected to make clear and Fisk would like to see the city charter changed to better explain what constitutes conflict of interest.

"We all are businessmen and women," she said. "We're out in the community working with other groups and any one of us could potentially have a conflict of interest."

"Mrs. Fisk is right when she says the city charter is over 50 years-old and some definitions in there are certainly not clear," McClure said. "Do we need to change them? Do we need to look at modifying them? Maybe that's an outcome from all of this."

So far the allegations have cost taxpayers $23,000 in city legal fees with more to come.

Fisk, who like other city council members serves for free, says she'll keep fighting to clear her name but that long-term, it's not worth the stress.

"Not only has it harassed me but also my family," she said. "Therefore when I finish up my term I won't seek re-election."

"I do worry about that," McClure said of concerns that some people might be reluctant on running for office over concerns of coming under the microscope. "These are volunteer positions so getting good people to volunteer their time without pay is always a challenge."

There's no timetable yet for when that hearing will take place. The judge's recommendations can range from nothing to sanctions or removal.

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