St. Louis Public Radio News
6:32 pm
Thu May 20, 2010

Nixon expected leadership shake-up at police board

St. Louis – Gov. Jay Nixon expected the leadership shake-up at the board overseeing the St. Louis Police Department.

But at an appearance Thursday to unveil tax credits for a social service provider, Nixon said he did not think it would happen as soon as it did.

Todd Epsten, the last Board of Police Commissioners member appointed by Governor Matt Blunt, abruptly resigned on Wednesday after he was ousted as president by a Nixon appointee, Bettye Battle-Turner.

Epsten said later he believed the board's three other appointed members acted at Nixon's request. Nixon appointed all three, and all came on within the last 15 months.

Nixon denied personally asking his appointees to select a new president, but said he would not be surprised if his senior staff had not talked to those three members.

"I thought it moved more quickly than I perhaps thought it would, but I think it got to where it was going to get, and now my focus is on making sure that we get a quality appointment to fill out the board," Nixon said. It will be his fourth; the board's fifth member is fellow Democrat Francis Slay, the St. Louis mayor. Slay supported Epsten in Wednesday's vote.

The three remaining appointed members, Nixon said, share his philosophy that day-to-day operations of the department should be left to chief Dan Isom. He would not directly answer if he thought Epsten micromanaged.

"I mean we've all seen stories over the many years of the police board," he said. "Obviously I've been in law enforcement and elective office for many years. I just think my philosophy has been that this is a board that should provide guidance, should provide support."

Nixon's remarks came at Kingdom House, a South City social services provider that will receive about $200,000 in Youth Opportunity incentives. The tax credits, which are administered by the Missouri Department of Economic Development, can be given to donors to offset their donations.

Nixon crusaded against the growing expense of tax credits during the just-completed legislative session, but called Thursday's program a model for how incentive programs can work.

"All this stuff is reviewed, they follow up to make sure they spend the money how they said they were, the services are guaranteed, and we know exactly what we're getting. And we know afterward that we can look in and see exactly what we got," he said.

Nixon's efforts to cap tax credits failed in the last legislative session. He had wanted to subject many of the state's programs to an annual appropriation.