By Ray Downs
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
In August, Hoffmann saw another of his proposed ordinances go down in flames when he unveiled a bill entitled "Hang Up and Drive" that would make Town & Country the only municipality in the region to outlaw cell phone use while driving. A week before he formally introduced the measure, Hoffmann leaked word of the bill to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paper ran an article about the proposed ordinance the Monday of the board meeting. By noon that same day, a half-dozen TV and radio stations had called Hoffmann for follow-up interviews.
Hoffmann says he modeled the bill after a similar ordinance in California. But that didn't satisfy his fellow aldermen who viewed the legislation as little more than "political grandstanding" as Hoffmann failed to consult them or the police — whose job it would be to enforce the law — before introducing it to the board. Like the deer-hunting ordinance, the cell phone ban died when no other alderman bothered to give it a second.
After the meeting, Meyland-Smith told the Post-Dispatch that Hoffmann had acted "unilaterally." "The hallmark of this government is one of collaboration and due diligence," Meyland-Smith told the paper. "We don't act on important matters capriciously."
More recently, Hoffmann has earned the ire of Town & Country officials for his rambling, long-winded newsletters that take pride in skewering fellow elected officials for the slightest of offenses. Hoffmann sends each newsletter individually by e-mail to a few dozen recipients. Like anything sent through the Internet, the missives have a tendency to be passed around.
"He sneaks off to the safe confines of his keyboard and harpoons people," says a fellow alderman who declined to talk on the record for fear of becoming yet another target of Hoffmann's. "It's like throwing gasoline on a fire. You challenge him on something, and he just feeds on it. He doesn't let it go."
"I learned long ago never to get in a pissing match with a skunk," opines another Town & Country insider. "You can't win."
In newsletters, some exceeding fifteen pages of single-space type, Hoffmann has referred to the mayor as a "jerk" and the actions of other council members as "dumb and dumber." He's nitpicked the legroom and fuel efficiency of the city's new Dodge Charger police cars (Hoffmann would rather they bought Toyota Priuses) and complained after his cell phone ban died that city officials are "more interested in the health and safety of deer than they are human beings."
Proud of his status as an "independent" voter, Hoffmann has recently taken aim at Mayor Jon Dalton for allowing his photo from the city website to appear on a campaign flyer endorsing Republican State Representative Jane Cunningham.
"The nice thing about city government is it is supposed to be nonpartisan!" wrote Hoffmann in a huffy August newsletter. The alderman also frequently points out in his newsletters that the mayor has been a registered lobbyist for cigarette manufacturers and performed legal work for West County EMS, the independent fire-protection district to which the city pays millions of dollars annually for its emergency services.
Dalton, an attorney with a downtown St. Louis firm, says Hoffmann's barbs are misinformed. He maintains he represents a number of state-regulated industries. His past lobbying efforts for cigarette companies, he counters, sought only to close loopholes that allow some tobacco firms to avoid paying their share of state taxes. His brief time lobbying for West County EMS, he adds, came when that fire district joined others he was working with to ensure similar political subdivision in Missouri followed certain accountability rules.
"I have worked hard over the last five years to foster a transparent and cooperative working environment at city hall for the benefit of our residents," defends Dalton. "Unfortunately, Alderman Hoffmann has been more interested in lodging petty personal assaults against not only me and other public officials, but against private citizens who have volunteered their time and talents on behalf of our city."
Other city officials believe that Hoffmann is tarnishing the image of well-heeled Town & Country, one of the wealthiest communities in Missouri, and they bitterly resent that he's chosen to air the city's dirty laundry.
Late last month, an investment banker from Town & Country was found with millions of dollars in gold and silver coins stacked in his basement, prompting an ongoing FBI investigation. In a newsletter that followed, Hoffmann took advantage of the incident to mock Town & Country's website, which refers to the city as "a prestigious community."
"Yes," Hoffmann wrote, tongue-in-cheek, "we are getting some very prestigious criminals."
Hoffmann has filled pages of his newsletter lambasting his colleagues' decision to spend $1.6 million renovating a historic farmhouse owned by the city. Hoffmann complains that the building and its new glass-and-steel addition serves no use and likens the structure's design to a "glass double-wide."
Following a council meeting in late September, Hoffmann drove by the farmhouse to check out some newly planted landscaping. "You know what kind of trees they planted next to the building? They're hawthorns," says Hoffmann. "You know what hawthorns have? Thorns! Who would plant thorn trees right next to a place that's supposed to host parties and have children? It's dangerous."