McGee says he did not handpick any of the candidates who ran for aldermanic office and denies allegations that he influences how members votes — not even his own wife.

"I don't make the decision," he says. "I bring the evidence there."

None of the African-American members of the Vinita Park Board of Aldermen consented to interview requests from Riverfront Times.

JaCola Williams believes she was fired for airing Vinita Park’s dirty laundry.
Jennifer Silverberg
JaCola Williams believes she was fired for airing Vinita Park’s dirty laundry.
Vinita Park’s mayor, James McGee.
www.vinitapark.org
Vinita Park’s mayor, James McGee.

Alderman Rich Redel, one of the town's two white elected officials, says he supports the mayor and the termination decisions the board has voted on. He compares the upheaval to a U.S. president assembling a new cabinet upon taking office.

"I think the mayor had an agenda," he allows. "Some people think — and I probably would agree — that maybe he's going about it too fast."

Adds Redel: "I think he's on the right direction."

McGee says efforts to discredit him are motivated by his race. After community members criticized some of his early spending decisions ($500 for the golf cart; cash to pay neighborhood youths to hand out newsletters), McGee paid back the city in an effort to quiet his critics.

"They couldn't get me on money, so what else could they go after? Women," he scoffs.

Alderman Brian Gremaud — the son of McGee's most vocal critic, Verna Gremaud — says that misuse of public funds is his "main concern" and that annual audits have turned up nothing amiss. Gremaud, who describes himself as the "lame duck" on the board, says the biggest issue remains the city's police department.

Says Gremaud: "He's almost obsessed with that department."

McGee, who retired from Pagedale's police force with the rank of lieutenant, says the fact that he has already cycled through two African American chiefs in Vinita Park proves he's no racist. (His first choice for public-works director, an African American, is also gone.)

"I treat everybody fair, I give everybody an opportunity," he says. "Matter of fact, I go over and beyond the call of duty, because I done been there. You don't want anybody else to go through it."

Although he declines to elaborate on the termination of Chief Moore, he shares with Riverfront Times a memo he wrote to Moore accusing him of favoritism.

McGee recently made a case to the board for terminating Vinita Park's acting chief of police, Laird Bowers. The board placed Bowers on probation instead. Soon afterward, Bowers filed paperwork with the Missouri State Highway Patrol alleging that McGee asked him to erase an arrest report for vandalism as a favor to a resident. Bowers believes McGee should be prosecuted for obstruction of justice.

One by one, McGee shows Riverfront Times internal memos detailing how Bowers has failed to live up to his expectations. One says restrooms in the parks should have been locked by officers but were not; another time he faults Bowers for failing to write tickets for residents leaving their trash cans out. McGee laughs incredulously at a request for time off that Bowers filled out and approved for himself.

"Still, I'm the villain," the mayor mutters.

McGee says he has interviewed a couple of potential replacements for Bowers. One of the candidates for the job, he tells Riverfront Times, is white.

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