POLITICS

Newly Elected Mayor Locked Out Of City Hall In Struggling St. Louis County Town

04/25/2015 07:30 am ET | Updated Apr 27, 2015

KINLOCH, Mo. -- Just minutes away from Ferguson, its now-famous neighbor, is Kinloch, the first well-established African-American community in St. Louis County. Kinloch was once a flourishing town with some 10,000 residents.

Today, the population is less than 300. They elected a new mayor earlier this month: Betty McCray, 64, a seven-year veteran of the Kinloch Board of Aldermen. She won with 76 percent of the vote -- that is, 63 votes.

But the Board of Aldermen refused to swear her in, and now McCray can't get into city hall.

On Thursday, after she was sworn in by St. Louis County officials in nearby Clayton, McCray showed up at Kinloch's combination city hall and police department. It's in the former elementary school with the boarded-up windows and an overgrown playground. She was denied entry and handed impeachment papers by the city attorney, James Robinson. (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a video of their encounter here.)

McCray told HuffPost that Kinloch officials have just “continued business as usual” since the election. “They don’t want to leave because they know I will find out everything that they’ve been doing,” she claimed.

Two years ago she resigned from the Board of Aldermen when Mayor Darren Small won office. She told HuffPost it was because “I knew it was going to be horrible.” She called the current regime "crooked."

Those at city hall see it differently, of course. They have alleged to county and state officials that 27 people who don't live in Kinloch were illegally registered to vote, according to the Post-Dispatch.

An official from the city of Kinloch did not immediately respond to HuffPost's request for comment.

As to the claims of voter fraud, McCray said those people still live in Kinloch even if their apartments appear to be in bad shape.

“We citizens of Kinloch have to live in horrible conditions. There is one apartment complex that hasn’t had trash pickup in a year and a half,” she told HuffPost.

She said the people of the town came out in “full force” on voting day because they were tired of “living in a dump.” There has not been an operating public works department for two years, according to McCray.

McCray has hired a lawyer and plans to file an injunction against the city.

Wherever the truth lies in the current battle, local government in Kinloch have repeatedly stumbled in recent years. In 2011, a former mayor was sentenced to 21 months in prison for spending tens of thousands of dollars in city money on his own expenses.

This year, the municipal judge was disciplined for a “pattern of misconduct” in his private legal practice -- he was using client funds to pay his own bills. And a former interim mayor was recently cited for resisting arrest -- but she contends she was assaulted by Kinloch police officers.

Kinloch government has not always run smoothly in other ways as well. Prior to the April election, HuffPost tried to attend the town's traffic court, only to be denied access -- even though last summer a presiding county judge had ordered local municipal courts to stop limiting the public's access.

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