Last year, it was Missouri’s (now former) Governor, Eric Greitens, who was embroiled in scandal and legal battles and ultimately resigned. The fallout from that continues as I reported last month with Kim Gardner, the St. Louis City Prosecutor who led the charge to take him down, facing her own allegations of malfeasance.
Now comes news that St. Louis County Executive, Steve Stenger, is resigning amid indictments for bribery and mail fraud. As the Post Dispatch reports:
CLAYTON • St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, a target of a U.S. government investigation into political favors traded for campaign contributions, was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on charges of bribery, mail fraud and theft of honest services.
In a copy of the indictment unsealed on Monday, prosecutors said that from October 2014 to Dec. 31, 2018, “Stenger and various individuals and companies schemed to defraud and deprive the citizens of St. Louis County of their right to his honest and faithful services, and the honest and faithful services of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership’s Chief Executive Officer, through bribery and the concealment of material information.”
Stenger ensured that a campaign donor, John Rallo, and his company, Cardinal Insurance, got insurance contracts from the county in 2015 and 2016, and a 2016 consulting contract through the St. Louis County Port Authority, prosecutors said.
Stenger also helped a Rallo company, Wellston Holdings, LLC, obtain options to purchase two properties in Wellston, Missouri which were held by the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.
Per KMOV TV, Stenger is submitting his resignation.
Prosecutors said it stems from an overall scheme to deprive the citizens of St. Louis County of honest services through a bribery scheme.
Late last month, St. Louis County was served a subpoena for federal investigation into Stenger’s administration. The subpoena commanded the county to produce all text communications, notes and phone records between the county executive Steve Stenger, senior staff and current and former county employees regarding county contracts.
For those unfamiliar with the geopolitics of St. Louis, St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis are two separate jurisdictions/governmental entities. The City proper is its own county, governed by a Mayor (Lyda Krewson) and a Board of Aldermen. St. Louis County rings the City (well, semi-rings – the Mississippi River serves as its eastern border) to the north, west, and south. The County is governed by a County Executive (Stenger) and a Council.
In fact, just to add a wrinkle to things, there’s been a push of late by an organization called “Better Together” to unify St. Louis City and St. Louis County. The initial proposal included a provision that the current County Executive would essentially serve as the unelected mayor of the new, unified entity until the 2024 election. Once the subpoenas started flying, that notion was scrapped.
With Stenger resigning, the question then becomes who will take his place? There is no vice or lieutenant executive. The choice of his replacement may fall to the Council, which currently consists of four Democrats and three Republicans. Oh – did I forget to mention Stenger’s party? He’s a Democrat. (As is Kim Gardner. As was Eric Greitens until milliseconds before he announced his run for Governor – then he became a Republican.) Stenger will undoubtedly be replaced by a Democrat — maybe one of the current Council members.
In the meantime, St. Louisans have to be wondering if it’s possible to find some non-corrupt leaders to elect? Sure would be nice.
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