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Government, Politics & Issues

Slay Names Alderman Florida As New Recorder Of Deeds

City of St. Louis

(Updated 1:45 p.m. Monday, July 14)

Last Thursday, the day before then-Recorder of Deeds Sharon Carpenter was forced to step down, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay approached Alderman Jennifer Florida about becoming her replacement. On Monday, Florida was sworn in.

Florida said in an interview that the mayor had reaffirmed the importance of the job and his desire to quickly deal with "this sudden impending vacancy.."

Slay "asked me if I would please consider being appointed as the recorder of deeds. That he needed a defendable, competent, incumbent recorder," she recalled.

Florida then telephoned Carpenter Thursday night.  She declined to discuss their conversation, but Florida emphasized that she considered Carpenter "a friend...This is a difficult time for her."

Florida, D-15th Ward, was appointed by Mayor Francis Slay on Monday to fill the last six months of the term of  Carpenter, who resigned late Friday amid an investigation into whether she violated the state’s ban against nepotism.

Carpenter has held the office almost 34 years and remains on the Aug. 5 primary ballot. Slay is still endorsing her.

According to a statement from Slay, Florida took the oath of office Monday morning in the mayor’s office. The oath was administered by Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer.

“The office of the recorder of deeds is an important one,” said Slay in a statement. “I am confident that Jennifer will administer it well.”

Florida said in the interview that she is focused on putting in place "a modern, transparent, recorder's office."

Florida confirmed that she is now dropping plans to make an expected 2015 bid for president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, challenging incumbent Lewis Reed. She said she now is focused solely on running the recorder of deeds office.

Florida is married to former St. Louis Alderman Steve Gregali.

Because it's so close to the Aug. 5 primary, Carpenter will remain on the Democratic ballot. She also retains Slay's endorsement, his aides say.

However, Florida's emergence as her temporary replacement raised the possibility that Florida may mount an independent bid for the office in November. And if she were to do so,  she also might have the behind-the-scenes support of some top Democrats -- or, at minimum, no objections.

She has until July 28 to file as an independent. She would need to turn in close to 2,000 signatures.

When asked about a possible independent candidacy, Florida replied, "That's a conversation for another day."

Florida already has resigned her post as the 15th Ward alderman, setting the stage for another special election. The ward Democratic leaders would choose a new nominee.

Meanwhile, she  has begun to move into her new job and posted on Twitter a photo of her first meeting with the staff.

Among the questions now are whether Florida makes any staff changes, and whether she conducts any sort of internal inquiry into the matters that landed Carpenter in trouble -- and at least, temporarily, cost Carpenter the office she has held for almost 34 years.

State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, says there are many questions about operations in the recorder of deeds' office that need to be answered. She has formally asked state auditor Tom Schweich to conduct an audit of the office. The last such state audit of the recorder of deeds' office was in 2010.

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