Police Drag Resident From Council Meeting
Charles "Cookie" Thornton refused to stop insulting mayor, council
May 26, 2006
Years of contentious behavior by Kirkwood resident Charles "Cookie" Thornton came to a head on Thursday, May 18, when two Kirkwood police officers dragged him out of the Kirkwood City Council chambers in handcuffs.
Kirkwood Police took Thornton next door to police headquarters where he was charged with disorderly conduct and then released.
His latest antics have council members considering either banning the long-time resident from speaking at meetings or prohibiting his attendance.
Thornton has for years been a regular at council meetings (except for about six months when he was out of town.) During citizen comments, Thornton has taken his allotted three minutes as an opportunity to ridicule city staff and council members, especially Mayor Mike Swoboda and Public Works Director Ken Yost.
For the most part, the mayor and council have rolled with his raucous remarks. Recently, however, Thornton began attempting to intimidate city officials during public hearings, as well as during citizen comment periods. May 18 was no exception.
During a public hearing on Bopp Chapel's request for a special use permit for a parking lot, Thornton made several remarks before addressing Bopp's representative, Steve Rush of Site Development Engineering. Thornton asked if asphalt and asphalt equipment would be used. Rush replied "yes."
Thornton informed Rush that the city has a history of issuing tickets for asphalt equipment used in putting in asphalt driveways.
"Once again, (these are) acts from a jackass from a corrupt city council," Thornton said.
The mayor interrupted thanking Thornton for his comments and telling Thornton he was finished.
"My time is not up yet," Thornton responded.
During a second public hearing on St. Agnes Home's request for a special use exception for a two-story addition, Thornton again took to the microphone.
"Are you aware that with the jackass plantation mentality they have here in Kirkwood you can be fined for having a permit...," began Thornton, who is black.
The mayor interrupted.
"Mayor, I have no problem with you sitting there and looking stupid, but when you open your mouth and stop me..." Thornton said, before the mayor stopped him and asked if he had a question for the applicant.
"If you let me finish," Thornton said. "When we're in the plantation mentality in the city with jack-ass-like qualities..." Thornton began as the mayor repeatedly told him to ask his "appropriate" question.
Finally, the mayor told Thornton "that's enough."
The police officer on duty at the meeting then approached Thornton asking him to leave. Thornton refused continuing to say that he hadn't finished asking his question. Thornton then sprawled prostrate on the floor refusing to leave. The officer eventually had to threaten pepper mace before Thornton would cooperate. He was then handcuffed and dragged out of the council chambers.
Thornton has been battling the city since 2000. He has been cited for dozens of city violations and been convicted of the majority of them -- incurring thousands of dollars in fines.
Most of the convictions involved building code violations such as parking his truck and other equipment in residential areas, performing work without a proper city permit or posting illegal signs. He has claimed that he has been unfairly targeted by the city. Over the years, he has also accused the city of fraud and coverup.
Before the May 18 meeting concluded, Council Member Joe Godi spoke on either banning Thornton from council meetings or not allowing him to speak at the meetings.
"I think the council has the authority to do that because of his disruptive behavior," said City Attorney John Hessel. He recommended that the council take up the matter in a work session.
"It's severe banning someone from the meeting," said Council Member Tim Griffin. "What about just banning him from speaking."
Hessel agreed that would be less severe and would allow Thornton to still attend meetings.
Council members agreed to discuss the matter in an upcoming work session.