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St. Louis Aldermen Point To County In Effort To Impose Tougher Ethics Rules

Alderwoman Megan Green, the sponsor of the St. Louis ordinance, said lawmakers in special session are spending "taxpayer money to do essentially nothing."
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

A series of bills introduced at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen meeting on Friday aim to hold elected officials accountable to stricter ethics standards.

Alderwoman Megan Green, D-15th Ward, is one of six sponsors of the bills. Two of the proposals mirror state-level ethics legislation Clean Missouri. The constitutional amendment limits lobbying gifts to $5, among other things. Last November, it passed with 62% voter approval state-wide and 80% approval in St. Louis.  

Green said that shows St. Louis residents want to see more accountability from their local government officials.

The third bill she helped sponsor would ban elected officials from accepting campaign contributions from individuals or businesses that also are seeking city contracts. It proposes blocking contributions from 90 days prior to the city’s call for applications until 90 days after a contract has been awarded.

“We often see huge campaign contributions that happen especially when we are debating really large development deals,” she said, “and I do think that phrase, ‘public trust,’ every time the media reports on one of those huge campaign contributions while that business is in front of the board.”

A recent example in St. Louis County highlights why the bill is important, Green said.

“With the indictment of Steve Stenger, I think it needs to give all of us pause and looking internally at our practices and doing what we can to make sure that we really are abiding by best practices and ethics, laws and creating a local government that people can really trust and that is transparent.”

Earlier this month, former County Executive Stenger pleaded guilty to three counts of public corruption for awarding county contracts to campaign donors.

According to political science professor David Kimball, passing legislation similar to the Clean Missouri amendment at the local level is one way to reaffirm support for the ethics measures, especially as they’re being debated by the Legislature.

The University of Missouri-St. Louis professor says there are no silver bullets when it comes to ethics legislation, but there are things government officials can do to reduce conflicts of interest.

“I think having more transparency in contracting and procurement, for example, would probably also help,” he said. “I think these bills are a step in the right direction.”

The bills other co-sponsors include: Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward; Annie Rice, D-8th Ward; Dan Guenther, D-9th Ward; Heather Navarro, D-28th Ward; and Bret Narayan, D-24th Ward.

Follow Corinne on Twitter: @corinnesusan

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Corinne is the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.