The debate over Mayor Carson Ross’s appointment of Mike Spiegel – who is set to face a disciplinary hearing over an alleged attorney-client relationship – to interim prosecutor of Blue Springs continued to draw conflict Monday night. The City Council faced the decision of approving Spiegel’s contract, as he is slated to replace the retiring Vernon Scoville III.
According to Council Member Dale Carter, Ross sent out an email asking council members to show their support for an appointed interim prosecutor at the Monday meeting. However, Carter says Ross released his choice for prosecutor to the media without council consent or asking its opinion.
Ross was absent Monday due to illness, leaving Susan Culpepper to serve as mayor pro-tem.
The contested appointment raises questions about the city charter, which currently allows the mayor to initiate all appointments and removals, as well as the lack of an alternative candidate. Municipal Judge Don Lograsso stated that there was “no plan B.”
“As of midnight this morning, we have no prosecutor,” Lograsso said.
Lograsso then detailed the complications this poses for the city. Specifically, police will be required to release certain individuals from jail without other direction from the prosecutor. According to Lograsso, many of these prisoners are domestic assailants, and their release could mean less time for victims to relocate or otherwise negotiate safety.
Concerned by Lograsso’s image of officers turning people loose, council members Culpepper and Ron Fowler voted against a motion to table Spiegel’s contract for a future meeting.
“I would rather approve a bad contract than release criminals we should hold,” Councilman Fowler said. “If I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of public safety. That’s the oath of office we took.”
Ultimately, however, Council Members Carter, Kent Edmondson, Chris Lievsay and Jerry Kaylor passed a majority vote to table contract discussion. They cited concerns about whether Spiegel should occupy a position of high public trust.
The complaint that led to the disciplinary hearing stems from a 2013 child custody case in which Spiegel represented Christy DiMaggio against an ex-boyfriend. The two became intimate soon after he took the case, DiMaggio said. Later, when she wanted to keep their relationship strictly professional, DiMaggio alleges that Spiegel became less motivated toward her case and eventually withdrew as her attorney.
The case saw DiMaggio’s ex-boyfriend Joe Zaroor, who has pleaded guilty to domestic assault and property damage charges and has multiple protection orders taken against him, gain sole custody of their 9-year-old son.
“You’re asking us to make a long-term, potentially detrimental decision based on short-term concerns,” Lievsay responded to Lograsso. “That’s not a fair trade-off.”
Yet some questioned whether the charter merited this discussion, given that Spiegel has all he needs to assume the position – Ross’s approval.
Ross’ absence left unanswered questions, namely, about his timeline for appointing a long-term prosecutor.
“The mayor appoints the city prosecutor,” City Attorney Jacqueline Sommers said as she referenced the charter. “He’s done that today. It’s my opinion that we have a prosecutor here today.”
Nevertheless, Carter asserted that if Spiegel wanted to take on the position, he’d have to do so for free. The meeting ended with Spiegel’s contract tabled for a future meeting. The date has not yet been scheduled.