The St. Louis County Council sunk former Metro chief Bob Baer’s nomination to the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners.
And while the council approved former Hazelwood Mayor T.R. Carr’s nomination on Tuesday to provide the beleaguered panel with a long-sought quorum, Baer’s defeat sparked an angry verbal skirmish between St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and Councilman Greg Quinn.
Dooley nominated Baer and Carr in late November to the county police board to fill vacancies caused by the resignations of Greg Sansone and Floyd Warmann. The police board came under fire after a general contractor had awarded SM Mechanical LLC a $3.7 million subcontract for heating and air conditioning construction for St. Louis County’s new crime lab. Sansone is an owner of SM Mechanical LLC.
Baer previously served as the CEO and president of Metro, as well as the chairman of the St. Louis Police Board, the Metropolitan Sewer District Board and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority. Carr is currently the director of the master of public administration program at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
The council approved Carr’s nomination to the board without opposition. That’s important, since the panel has been one member short of a quorum for weeks. But Baer’s nomination failed after he failed to win enough votes to be confirmed. Councilwomen Kathleen Kelly Burkett, D-2nd District, and Hazel Erby, D-1st District, voted for the nomination, while Quinn voted against it. The remaining four councilmembers abstained, which effectively killed Baer’s nomination.
St. Louis County Police Association President Gabe Crocker said that his group had “grave concerns” over Baer’s appointment due to his “longstanding ties” to Dooley. And Quinn contended that Baer was too connected to longtime Dooley political ally John Temporiti.
Quinn went onto say that Baer’s “ties to Dooley administration – and particularly to Mr. Temporiti – could jeopardize the independence of the police board.”
“Mr. Temporiti has already been reported to be meddling in police board matters after the FBI was requested by the county police chief to conduct a probe of a contract to a police board members,” said Quinn, referring to the subcontract controversy. “I think the police board is designed to be an independent board that runs the police department.”
Those comments sparked an angry reaction from Dooley. He added he was “insulted” that a nominee should be disqualified because he’s a “friend.” He went onto say that he has never “asked any favors” from the St. Louis County Police Department.
“Now why you said that statement you did, I do not know,” Dooley said. “But everything you said for what you implied is truly untrue.”
“You have a right to feel that way, but I have a right to tell you your feelings are wrong,” he added.
For his part, Baer said he was disappointed by the council’s decision. He said he “wanted to serve and I thought I could help.”
“But if that’s what they decide, I hope they come up with another great commissioner,” Baer said.
He also said the questions about his association with Temporiti weren’t “legitimate at all.” Baer said he’s known Temporiti for years, but added he didn’t “see much of him these days.”
Both men worked together at Unigroup. And Baer told councilmembers during the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting that the two men used to live a few doors away from one another.
“I know a lot of people and I work with a lot of people on both sides of the aisle,” Baer said. “John didn’t influence me one way or another. Anyone who knows me knows I’m my own man. And I would have done what I felt was the best thing I can do for the department.”
Back to the drawing board
The council’s action marks the second time in recent months that Dooley faltered at filling some of the board’s vacancies.
He initially nominated Republican Dave Spence and Democrat Freddie Clark to fill Sansone's and Warmann’s spots on the board. But both men eventually withdrew their nominations, with Spence pointing to a recent ordinance mandating background and credit checks.
Dooley also still needs to fill a vacancy sparked by former commissioner Ray Wagner’s resignation.
Asked if he would be able to get nominees through the council, Dooley said “I will get one through because there are good people out there.”
“There’s over a million people in St. Louis County,” Dooley said. “There are qualified people in this community. And we’re going to get it done. … All I can do is present good, credible people – qualified people. And Robert Baer is a qualified person by any stretch of the imagination.”
But Quinn said that Dooley should collaborate more with the council in order to get the board completely filled.
“We could sit down with the county executive and try and reach consensus on some candidates,” Quinn said. “Right now there is very little communication between the council and the county executive. That’s something that we need to restore. And I think this would go a long ways to doing that.”