Political turmoil leaves Wellston police cars with empty gas tanks

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WELLSTON, MO (KTVI) - Political turmoil in the city of Wellston has led to empty gas tanks in police cars, and extreme measures to be taken.  On Friday, a court-appointed attorney officially took over the city’s finances.

Wellston Police Chief G. Thomas Walker says the infighting between city leaders has been going on for years, but has recently reached a breaking point: “The treasurer resigned after the last meeting, where they weren’t able to have a meeting, approximately two weeks ago.”

No treasurer, an ousted mayor, and a city council at an impasse means no one to sign paychecks, and no one to approve paying the bills.

That caused the police department to rack up nearly $11,000 in debt at the gas station they use to fill up squad cars. The bill hadn’t been paid since May.  Walker says, “It was a pretty good bill, and I can understand that business person’s decision to stop the service until he was paid.”

Each squad car is fueled at least once per day, so this left Wellston police in a desperate situation.  Walker explains, “I allowed them to use my personal credit card to fuel up the police vehicles, so that we could maintain patrol. We had, for one day, gone on reduced patrol where the officers would patrol for an hour, and then park for an hour and just respond to calls, but the citizens deserve better than that.”

That was the last straw.  Earlier this week, three city council members filed an injunction, and a judge quickly appointed St. Louis Attorney Ethan Corlija to take over Wellston’s finances.

“Really the two primary goals that I have are to make sure the city police department has the resources they need to make sure the city is safe, and also, payroll, that city personnel are paid for the work they do,” says Corlija.

Now that Corlija has been put in charge, employees have gotten their paychecks, and police have started fueling their squad cars again.

Corlija says he’ll continue to control city funds until a new mayor is elected, or as long as necessary.  “I intend to keep a very close eye on city finances until that point,” he says.

Next on Corlija’s agenda is approving five new police cars and new radios for all of those vehicles.  Walker says both of those contracts should have been completed several months ago.



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