Some members of the County Council led by County Council Chairman Sam Page hope to hire their own independent lawyer due to their ongoing conflict with County Executive Steve Stenger.
The long standing conflict between Councilmembers Sam Page, Hazel Erby, Rochelle Walton Gray, and Ernie Trakas took a new turn Tuesday as Page hopes to introduce legislation that would hire Bick & Kistner PC to provide them legal services.
This is a striking move from the council members as the St. Louis County Charter explicitly states that neither the council nor any department, division, office, officer, or other agency or body of the county shall have any attorney other than the county counselor, except authorized by an ordinance.
Page’s legislation stems from Stenger denying to fill vacant positions within County Auditor Mark Tucker’s office and Stenger’s changes to the FY2018 budget.
Stenger announced the change in the budget in January on KMOX’s Mark Reardon show, stating that he had the authority under the county charter to move line-item spending and that he was moving the money back into reserve accounts.
Because of this, Stenger said, the County Council would not be able to block the money transfer into the county’s reserve accounts.
Stenger stated it was unfair for the council to raise its own budget while it simultaneously cuts $31 million within the county.
The other major issue comes with Stenger and Page’s disagreement regarding the vacant auditor staff positions.
Controversy first arose surrounding the St. Louis County Auditor’s Office after an investigative report conducted by KMOV revealed Tucker owing thousands to the IRS.
It was shown that Tucker hasn’t completed any audits when on average the County Auditor performs eight audits a year.
Stenger said the St. Louis County Auditor’s Office previously operated close to a decade with just two audit staff and the problem lies with Tucker.
“I don’t think that some members of the county council have demonstrated that they are good stewards of taxpayer money. I don’t know if they’re taking frankly their job as council members seriously enough,” Stenger said. “This is a very serious position in St. Louis County government and is currently occupied by an individual who doesn’t show up for the job, who doesn’t meet the basic charter requirements and he hasn’t produced a single audit in six months.”
Page addressed that issue by saying the office was disorganized and suggested an inadequate staff was part of the issue.
“I think that’s part of the problem. Another part of the problem is the office has been in disarray and he’s been organizing it,” Page said. “He’s in the process of working through the request of proposals for an outside financial audit and that’s an event that happens every three years. We’re happy with his progress, he’s doing what he needs to do to get this office organized. Regardless of that, we need to fill this auditor position and we need to move forward with it.”
Stenger dismissed that issue and said it was St. Louis County taxpayers who would be bearing the responsibility of Tucker’s supposed inability to do his job.
“I am very remised on providing a third auditor position. This is what I think is happening — I think for the first time in a decade, we don’t have two auditors in that office because one of the auditors can’t audit,” he said. “The county council is asking the public to pay the price for Mr. Tucker to have someone to do his job. I think it’s completely unfair to taxpayers and it can’t be allowed to happen.”