Court drops impeachment charges against Hannibal councilman

Stephan Franke
Stephan Franke(WGEM)
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 5:15 PM CDT
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HANNIBAL (WGEM) - The Articles of Impeachment filed by Hannibal Mayor James Hark against Councilman Stephan Franke were dismissed Friday by Judge John J. Jackson, according to Franke.

Jackson granted Franke’s motion to dismiss the articles after a hearing on Friday.

He ordered the articles be dismissed with prejudice which would prevent the City of Hannibal from refiling the articles at a later date.

Franke’s motion alleged that the city willfully failed to comply with the city charter’s requirement to follow the rules of criminal procedure, as well as Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd’s June 27, 2022, order that the city complies with Missouri Rules of Criminal Procedure in the impeachment process.

Franke also asserted that the City of Hannibal failed to comply with Judge Jackson’s previous discovery and procedural orders of Jan. 4, Jan. 12, and Feb. 17 to comply with the Missouri Rules of Criminal Procedure and to fully respond to Franke’s request for discovery originally filed on Feb. 11, 2022.

Franke argued that the city refused to produce required records from every potential witness previously identified in a Feb. 28, 2022, email from City Clerk Angel Zerbonia which had been written by Special Prosecutor Nicole Volkert. Zerbonia’s email advised the Hannibal City Council, Hark, City Manager Lisa Peck and various department heads that Franke had a right to any email or text on their phone or in their business or personal email account and, further, that they had a duty to preserve the records for at least three years.

Zerbonia was also a complaining witness for one of the Articles of Impeachment. Franke’s motion cited the failure of the city to preserve her phone in working condition so that it could be searched for text messages related to the articles.

According to Franke, Zerbonia is currently on paid administrative leave from employment with the city because of accusations of a hostile workplace.

Franke also advised Jackson that the articles should be dismissed because Councilman Darrell McCoy, a member of the city council and as such, a potential juror at the impeachment hearing, refused to produce his phone for examination. Attorney Neil Maune pointed out to the judge that McCoy’s statement to Zerbonia that he had no texts related to the impeachment or Franke was contradicted by the text thread that was produced by Mayor Hark in which McCoy and Hark were discussing the case. The text communication occurred prior to his response to Zerbonia.

Jackson stated at the end of the proceedings that the city’s failure to comply with the rules of criminal procedure was willful.


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