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Former St. Louis Alderman Triplett Admits Illegally Using Campaign Money For Personal Expenses

Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio
Ald. Kacie Starr Triplett (in blue) at an event noting her decision to step down and take a job with Behavioral Health Network in November 2012.

Former St. Louis Alderman Kacie Starr Triplett is facing a $100,000 fine imposed by the Missouri Ethics Commission after she admitted that she illegally spent thousands of campaign dollars on personal expenses – including clothes, a wig,  a college loan and her mortgage.

She also admits to filing erroneous campaign reports that failed to list thousands of dollars in donations, and some improper spending, in a possible attempt to cover up her illegal activity. The reports in question span from 2010-2012. 

Missouri Ethics Commission Document for Kacie Starr Triplett by St. Louis Public Radio

Using campaign money for personal expenses is a violation of state law, and has landed several area public officials in legal hot water.

Triplett's admission is part of a commission settlement, released Thursday. James Klahr, the commission's executive director, emphasized that the settlement "does not have any bearing on any potential prosecution."

However, sources close to the investigation say Triplett's admission is likely to protect her from further legal trouble.

The commission estimates the illegal spending to have totaled at least $8,000, and perhaps as much as $18,900. The exact amount apparently couldn’t be calculated because of Triplett’s incomplete records covering the period in question.

Even so, Triplett will only have to pay 10 percent of the fine – or $10,000 -- if she pays up within 45 days, “files the necessary campaign finance paperwork and terminates her campaign committee within six calendar months,” according to the settlement posted on the commission’s website.

The commission has commonly agreed to payments of only 10 percent of the fine it has imposed in similar cases. Klahr said that the $100,000 is "at the high end'' of recent fines, but not the highest.

Triplett is the latest of several public officials, including former state Sen. Robin Wright Jones, D-St. Louis, who have run into trouble for alleging using campaign money for personal purposes.

Triplett sent an emailed apology Thursday to supporters and others, saying she was “full of regret for not fulfilling the trust, support and friendship you have given me. But most of all, I am sorry.”

She said through a lawyer that she is declining further comment, beyond the letter.

Triplett admitted in the apology that she “converted campaign funds for personal use. My actions were illegal and indefensible.

“Regrettably, my mistakes resulted not from need, but from greed and selfishness,” she wrote. “I fell into a behavior in which, if I desired something that I could not afford, I used my campaign funds to buy it. This was wrong.”

She added, “My conduct began on a small-scale that I erroneously convinced myself was innocent and harmless. However, I now realize that the misappropriation of any amount is improper and beneath the standards for anyone who serves the public….”

A Democrat, Triplett was first elected to the Board of Aldermen in 2007, and was re-elected in 2011.  She resigned from the board in 2012, announcing at the time that she was taking a job as a consultant with the nonprofit Behavioral Health Network of Greater St. Louis.

Her financial troubles arose when the commission began inquiring a year ago about missing campaign-finance reports from late 2012.  The ongoing probe  uncovered lists of unreported or underreported contributions totaling thousands of dollars.  Dozens of unreported or underreported donations, and unreported spending, are listed in the 52-page settlement.

Triplett said in her apology letter that she had been accompanied by legal counsel when she then met with the commission and admitted her illegal spending. She says she “laid out every dollar spent on personal use.”

“We provided every transaction and bank statement in an attempt to provide complete transparency for my mistakes,” she wrote. “This week, we finalized an agreement documenting my violations and stipulating the restitution and fines I will pay as a result of my actions.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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