Longtime Carthage city attorney resigns (2024)

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Carthage City Attorney Nate Dally has resigned from the position effective May 10, after 18 years on the job.

“This decision has not been easy and comes after considerable reflection on the current climate of the City Council and the impact it has had on my personal health,” Dally said in his letter of resignation. “The recent council meetings underscore a continuing trend in the operations of the city’s governance that I find unsustainable personally and professionally. The role of the City Attorney, designed to uphold the city’s legal integrity, has increasingly been politicized and misused beyond its intended purpose. It is with a heavy heart that I find the environment no longer conducive to professional operation as per the ethical standards expected of my office. I want to emphasize that this statement is not a reflection on my colleagues. No mayor, officer, or any city employee has ever attempted to influence my legal opinions. In fact, although I have often disagreed with mayors and various department heads over the years, they have consistently shown respect and diligence in adhering to the law.”

Dally submitted his letter of resignation Friday.

Tiffany Cossey, a member of Carthage Citizens United and the council member whose recent motions included one to hire a special counsel “to assist Mr. Dally in the functioning of his duties,” said she didn’t have any comment on Dally’s resignation.

Five new City Council members were sworn into office at the council’s regular meeting April 9.

The new council members are Derek Peterson, who defeated Ward 1 incumbent Brandi Ensor; Dustin Edge, who replaced Ward 3 incumbent Robin Blair; Jana Hunter Schramm, who took the seat that had been held by Ward 5 incumbent Mark Elliff; Tom Barlow, the sole candidate for Ward 4; and Loretta “Lori” Leece, who was unopposed in Ward 2.

One incumbent, David Armstrong of Ward 2, resigned from the council after the April 2 election, and his resignation was accepted Tuesday night.

Current council members who were not subject to reelection are Terri Heckmaster, Ward 3; Chris Taylor, Ward 1; Alan Snow, Ward 4; and Cossey, Ward 5.

Four of the new council members — Peterson, Edge, Schramm and Barlow — were endorsed by the political action committee Carthage Citizens United, a group that has questioned actions by Mayor Dan Rife, City Administrator Greg Dagnan and the previous council since July 2023 over a number of issues. Among these are disputes between city officials and directors and employees of the city-owned Carthage Water & Electric Plant over a salary study, the earlier decision to hire Dagnan, and the 2022 resignation of and subsequent filing of criminal charges against former parks director Mark Peterson, the father of new council member Derek Peterson.

After the new council was sworn in, one of its first moves was to impeach Rife, but that was stopped by provisions of the city charter.

The council instead returned a 7-2 vote of no confidence in the mayor. Derek Peterson, Heckmaster, Edge, Schramm, Barlow, Snow and Cossey voted “yes” while Taylor and Leece voted “no.”

Many of the other motions offered by Cossey were ruled inappropriate by Rife.

A special council meeting was held Thursday, in which the council voted 7-2 to hire three municipal law attorneys to render an opinion on whether the council can immediately fire Dagnan. That motion was approved by a 9-0 vote.

They also voted to hire a special counsel to assist Dally. That motion passed with a 7-2 vote.

The council members also voted to hold a special meeting on Wednesday, April 17, to discuss which three attorneys should be consulted and the duties for the special counsel to assist the city attorney.

Dally said he loved being city attorney but he felt the position was not being used as it should be by the new council.

Dally, who also serves as an assistant Jasper County prosecutor and city attorney for the city of Jasper, said it was a tough decision to leave a job that his father, the late Jasper County Circuit Court Judge David Dally, had held for 24 years before him.

“It was really tough, and in my letter you’ll see that I talked about my first job was with the city when I worked as a lifeguard for five years for Alan Bull at the parks department,” Dally said in a telephone interview Monday. “I enjoyed that, and it was coming around full circle. I really thought that would be where I would retire from, so it has been difficult. It really has been a large stressor on my health, and it just got to the point you wonder how much more you can take and it just got to that point for me on Tuesday.”

Longtime Carthage city attorney resigns (2024)
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