Valley Park Aldermen to Mayor: Adios, Whitteaker!

Jennifer Silverberg
Mayor Jeffery Whitteaker poses for photo in slut-ad tabloid.
Valley Park was the scene of a stormy meeting of its Board of Aldermen Monday night following the publication of last week's feature story, "Valley Park to Mexicans: Hasta La Vista, Baby!" Three aldermen suggested that Mayor Jeffery Whitteaker consider resigning because of comments he made to Riverfront Times staff writer Kristen Hinman, including suggestions that the city's anti-illegal immigration ordinances were meant to keep "Cousin Puerto Rico and Taco Whoever" from moving to Valley Park.

In addition, the board unanimously passed a resolution requiring that all further media interviews with the mayor or any Valley Park official take place at city hall in the presence of the city's attorney.

Whitteaker kicked off the meeting with a public apology before adding, "Many of my comments, I thought, were off the record."

(Never in the course of the three interviews Whitteaker granted Riverfront Times did he indicate that he wished to say anything off the record.)

A handful of angry citizens lined up to chastise their first-term mayor for his remarks, with one woman asking Whitteaker to "do the right thing and quietly step down." A supporter of the mayor dismissed Riverfront Times as a "tabloid" which "spinned the information to confirm to their preconceptions" and encouraged the board "not to back down" vis-�-vis the ordinances.

Alderman Don Carroll then addressed Mayor Whitteaker directly: "I feel that you've embarrassed your family and your city with your comments in the Riverfront Times. I know you said it was off the cuff, but the fact that you made those comments at all is the problem. I think you should seriously consider stepping down."

Board President Mike White defended Whitteaker, noting that a call for the mayor to resign "needs to come from the people."

But Alderman Ed Walker echoed Carroll's suggestion, while his colleague Randy Helton took pains to distance himself from the mayor. As Helton put it, "I'm not a racist. You made a mockery of this ordinance. It has nothing to do with what the Riverfront Times printed."

Alderman Mike Pennise asked City Attorney Eric Martin if Valley Park could sue Riverfront Times.

"Once something's in print, nothing can be done," Martin replied. "The statements have been made."

Whitteaker claimed that the story "twisted" certain facts but conceded that he'd learned "a mighty lesson" about talking to the press.

"Before, nobody came up and thanked me," the mayor said, alluding to previous media coverage of the ordinances. "But I get one article from a magazine that sells slut ads in the back...."

"But you took her out!" interjected William Reynolds, referring to Whitteaker's visits to two Valley Park pubs for interviews with Riverfront Times.

Reynolds' wife, Stephanie, is the main plaintiff in a civil lawsuit challenging the legality of Valley Park's anti-illegal immigration ordinances. A decision in that case is expected to be handed down soon by St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Wallace.

Valley Park is racking up legal bills in its defense of the ordinances, but its legal fund got a boost at Monday night's meeting when two women representing Missourians Against Illegal Immigration and the Constitution Party of Missouri presented the city a check for $5,000.

-Kristen Hinman and Molly Langmuir