A group of Independence citizens wants to recall City Council Member Tom Van Camp from office and has taken the first steps for such an attempt.
Van Camp, who was re-elected unopposed in 2016 to represent the Fourth District generally in southwest Independence, has come under fire recently for his travel costs related to the city and the solar farm at the former Rockwood Golf Club land in his district. Van Camp had been heavily involved in the city’s acquisition of the land, and some citizens have bemoaned the process and price of that acquisition and lack of community engagement.
“The heart of politics is serving others,” resident Beverly Harvey told the council Monday night. “Speaking out for people who have no voice, looking out for people in that community.”
“To be a public servant, one must be ethical.”
She then asked rhetorically if it would be ethical for an elected public official to vote in a way that enriched themselves, their family or employer, or to use taxpayer funds for person use.
She had called for Van Camp’s resignation two weeks ago, though on Monday she did not directly use his name.
Van Camp could not be reached for comment following Monday’s meeting. He has given no indication he would resign since Harvey’s initial remark.
Under the City Charter, citizens can seek recall of an elected official by providing a “general statement of the grounds for the recall.”
The recall petition that some citizens plan to submit Tuesday to City Hall lists four reasons: violation of the City Charter, lack of responsiveness to constituents, wasting taxpayer and utility ratepayer funds, and general abuse of power.
Petitioners can gain a recall election if they obtain valid signatures from 8 percent of the district's registered voters – about 1,300 people. The recall petition must be approved by the city clerk in order to collect signatures. Only individuals who live in that district can sign the petition.
Citizens have started a website and Facebook page related to the recall attempt, as well as campaign committee with the Missouri Ethics Commission. The committee's listed treasurer, Lee Williams, is the wife of Brent Schondelmeyer of the citizens group Indy Energy.
Van Camp has maintained the trips – more than $20,000 over the course of three years – were legitimate and that he is “clean” regarding the travel costs. The extended stays at places such as Orlando, Las Vegas, and Panama City Beach, Fla., he said, often had to do with cheaper travel costs for specific days. He also reimbursed the city for three days lodging from the Panama City stay, which had been to visit a compressed-air power plant in southwest Alabama.
At the end of Monday’s meeting, Van Camp referenced some of his travels when mentioning an upcoming Indy Energy forum Oct. 27. Among the scheduled topics is energy storage, and Van Camp mentioned his on-site visit to the compressed-air plant and said he learned about battery storage during pre-conference presentations in Orlando and Las Vegas.
“I feel that energy storage is the perfect partner to our solar farm,” Van Camp said. “It’s certainly the wave of the future.”
Van Camp was first elected to the council in 2014 to complete the term of Eileen Weir, who had been elected mayor earlier in the year.