By MARK EVANS
Last Thursday night’s St. Mary Board of Aldermen meeting was relatively short, but fiery toward the end.
The meeting went quickly, with no new or unfinished business. After the department reports, Mayor Carlton Wyatt asked if citizens wished to speak.
Jody Odem then addressed concerns about individuals’ private information being broadcast over emergency radios during traffic stops or arrests. He also suggested the board might be abusing its closed session privilege in defiance of the Sunshine Law and accused Wyatt of having a “personal vendetta” against him.
Wyatt stressed that each speaker had three minutes and could not be interrupted by anyone during that time.
Odem said he had sent letters to St. Mary police chief Adam Bequette, Ste. Genevieve police chief Eric Bennett, Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff Gary Stolzer and 911 center director Alan Wells, complaining about the social security number being read over the radio. He produced copies of those letters, as well as letters to District 116 State Representative Dale Wright and State Senator Elaine Gannon, which requested legislation to clarify the restrictions on giving out such information.
Odem said they give name, date of birth and social security numbers during many stops.
“That’s everything an identity thief needs to take somebody’s identity,” Odem said, “and it’s provided by our own law enforcement.”
He stressed that he was “not asking for any kind of action against anybody,” but just hoped to see the practice stop.
“Both state and federal law prohibit disclosure of social security numbers to an unauthorized person,” he said. “They can pass that information between them, but they cannot do it to where the public gets access to it. And that’s what’s happening on a daily basis.”
He said the law enforcement personnel did not respond to his first letter, so he sent a second one to each. This, Odem alleged, led to Wyatt being upset with him.
“Evidently this is what the mayor was upset about. I don’t know if he thought that I was going to ask that some kind of action be taken. That was not the intent, only for law enforcement to comply with the law,” Odem said.
When the timer sounded, Alderman Dr. Zen Duda suggested Odem get another three minutes. The rest of the board agreed.
“I am sure you would not be comfortable, knowing that the police, if they stop you, are giving out to anybody that’s got internet or internet on their phone, the last name, first name, middle initial, date of birth, social security number,” Odem said. “Would any of you be comfortable with that? OK, that’s what I’m trying to stop.”
He then accused Wyatt of using that issue to refuse to allow him to plug in the camera to film a previous meeting for Ste. Genevieve Community Access Television.
“Ste. Genevieve TV had nothing whatsoever to do with this issue,” Odem said. “This is a vendetta between the mayor and myself. I would ask the mayor rescind that to allow electricity to be send and also to send formal letter of apology to the board of Ste. Genevieve TV.”