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Anatomy of a Deception; some Wildwood politicos can't let go of Salvatore settlement

Updated: Apr 25

Revisionist history is alive in well on Wildwoods dark web of anonymous sites as some in the shadows attempt to revive a controversy long settled.

Many already know that a former city councilman settled with the city in a first amendment lawsuit that was filed in 2019 for a sum just under $300,000 that was paid by the City's insurance company.

Salvatore had filed suit against the city claiming that the enforcement of a no living sign ordinance infringed upon his free speech rights during his failed 2018 campaign for city council. The City agreed in a non-liability out of court settlement that it would pay the tidy sum, and post an affirmation of the City's commitment to first amendment rights.

The story has already cycled through the newsrooms and social media echo chambers, but is now being revisited by some anonymous Wildwood sites. These anonymous sites make up a veritable dark web that traffic in unsubstantiated allegations, rumors and outright misinformation.

Apparently those hoping to score political points from the lawsuit are not happy with the relatively pedestrian out of court settlement, especially since those sites had promised prosecutions of criminal wrong doing and multi-million dollar settlements that never materialized.

Some political enemies of the current administration have taken to anonymous sites hoping to muddy the waters with partial truths and muddled claims regarding the settlement.

The most recent attempt is a post on an anonymous site that posts a document from a closed session of the city council. Although no date is given on the post, it was from a March 25th, 2019 meeting. The post claims to show a vote of the council rejecting a motion to accept an "original demand letter." The implication is clearly that current council members had rejected an opportunity to settle the case early as a result of that vote.

(Post on Anonymous Site of Excerpt of March 25th

closed session meeting)

But it is a subtle deception. It is important to note that the document references a vote to accept "the original demand letter", while the council was discussing "the standstill agreement."

The post seems to indicate that they are the same thing. But it is clear by the use of the term "original", that it is a previous offer to settle. If there had not been a more current offer the term original would not have been used.

Of course these discussions were in closed session and only the votes are now public record but by looking at another document it is clear that a standstill agreement was agreed to on February 11, 2019 meeting in another closed session. From this document, it is clear that the council voted to execute the stand still agreement in the Salvatore case. This was several weeks prior to the votes taken regarding the "original settlement letter".

(Closed session document obtained by Wildwood Matters via Sunshine Request)

With the benefit of the Feb 11th document it is clear that the council had already authorized a course of action to execute a stand still agreement between Salvatore, his legal team and the City prior to the March 25th meeting.

What was the standstill agreement? Several anonymous sites have posted on social media what they claim to be the stand still agreement. According to the posted document, the city was to do several things prior to March 26th in order to forestall the filing of a suit by Salvatore. The demand including the change of a city ordinance prohibiting living signs, that the city had told Salvatore he had violated during his failed council race in 2018.

But a change to the offending ordinance did not happen prior to his filing a lawsuit in Federal Court on March 26, 2019. One day prior, on March 25th, the council did attempt to change the ordinance in open session, but it failed to receive the a required second reading. The votes against the second reading were Shea, Dillard, Stephens, Woerther, Gragnani, Bartoni, McGowen, McCutchen and Jordan.

In a subsequent April 8th meeting the ordinance change was again defeated. The final vote against that change had Shea, Gragnani, Dillard, Stephens, Woerther, Bopp, and Mccutchen voting against it. A second attempt after a motion to reconsider also failed.

During a Ward 3 residents meeting Bowlin was able to respond to a direct question about the settlement. Bowlin outlined the struggle to change the ordinance in the face of opposition by some council members, many who now decry the resulting settlement amount. Since the Ward 3 meeting was recorded by the city, his presentation is available as a public record. It is provided below for those interested.

Basic media literacy informs us that we should check the sources of a story before we make judgement of its legitimacy. Facebook is replete with anonymous Wildwood sites in where no one is willing to take responsibility for posts. Typically the information is not worth the pixels used to present it.

Wildwood Matters independently obtained various closed meeting records via Missouri Sunshine Law and make them available below.

2-11-2019 Closed Minutes - Redacted
Download PDF • 442KB
3-25-2019 Closed Minutes
Download PDF • 440KB

Related stories:

Free Speech Ultimate Winner in Salvatore Case

West Newsmagazine on Salvatore settlement

Anonymous Sites