Ferguson Commission comes under fire for handling of meetings, f - KMOV.com

Ferguson Commission comes under fire for handling of meetings, funding

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FERGUSON, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

At times, the first few meetings of the Ferguson Commission have seemed out of control. People yelled at St. Louis City Police Chief Sam Dotson during his presentation. Others screamed at the volunteer members of the commission.

Following the anger and frustration, observers say the meetings became more productive, particularly the work sessions on issues like municipal court reform that supporters say helped spark meaningful reform. 

In its early days, the commission was also criticized for hiring $125 an hour consultants without putting those contracts up for bid.\

“The important point is that the commission had to get up and running quickly with folks who had proven expertise,” said Commission Co-chair Rich McClure.

The commission said state officials were aware of the no-bid contractors before they were hired. Before February, the contractors were paid with private funds.

During News 4's investigation we filed open records requests with the Ferguson Commission and obtained hundreds of documents, including invoices that identify three different contract employees who were each paid $125 an hour to plan and organize public meetings for the Ferguson Commission.

None of the detailed financial records obtained from the commission are posted on their website.

However, Bethany Johnson-Javois, the commission's managing director, said the commission is putting more detailed information on the site.

“We've tried to be proactive,” Johnson-Javois said. “When we get feedback like this we work really hard to be accountable. Accountability is really important.”

The commission has 16 volunteer members who were chosen by the governor. The governor's executive order calls for the commission and its paid staff to gather information from the public and investigate social injustices that were blamed as the underlying contributing causes of the unrest in Ferguson that followed the  deadly police shooting of Michael Brown.

The commission staff has trimmed its budget and now expects to spend about $900,000, part of it tax dollars and part private funds. The commission has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donated services.

Wednesday night at 6 p.m., News 4 investigates the Ferguson Commission's claims that it has already played a key role in reform.

A breakdown of the commission's funding and expenses can be found at this link.
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