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St. Louis County Council May Block Pensions For Officials Convicted Of Felonies

St. Louis County Councilmembers congratulate Hazel Erby for her tenure as councilwoman. Erby served on the county council for about 15 years. May 15 2019
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Council members congratulate Hazel Erby for her tenure as councilwoman. Erby served on the county council for about 15 years.

The St. Louis County Council is looking into eliminating pensions for county officials who commit a felony.

The proposal came from Councilman Tim Fitch, R- St. Louis County, who said it would apply to those who pleaded or are found guilty of a felony while in office.

The proposal comes a few weeks after former County Executive Steve Stenger pleaded guilty to federal public corruption charges. He resigned as county executive in late April. Fitch said the proposed legislation could affect Stenger’s pension.

“I do believe that it’s wrong for someone to be convicted of a felony, of multiple felonies, while serving an elected office and then be able to at some point collect their pension,” Fitch said.

The proposed legislation is directed toward county elected officials, but Fitch said the council is discussing whether the language should also expand to non-elected county positions.

“Whether or not this new ordinance could be seen as something for future violations, felonies, or it could be applied in this case to Mr. Stenger, we don’t know the answer to that,” Fitch said.

He said the proposal will now be given to the county counselor to write potential legislation.

New head of the County Council

The meeting Tuesday marked the first day of Ernie Trakas’ tenure as the presiding officer for the council.

The council named him to the post through the end of the year when the council will select a new chairman and vice chairman. Sam Page left the chairmanship when the council chose him to replace Stenger as county executive. Vice Chairwoman Hazel Erby stepped down to head the county’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

“I’m expecting to continue what momentum we’ve seen for the last two years — that is bipartisanship, collaboration towards a focus of accountable, transparent government for the county,” said Trakas, R-South St. Louis County.

Trakas said one of the issues he hopes to tackle is holding a committee meeting that discusses and refines the definition of Proposition P — a tax passed for public safety — and what public-safety positions should receive the money.

Erby’s final meeting as councilwoman

“It has been a pleasure serving the 1st district of St. Louis County,” Erby said at her last meeting as a councilwoman. “I’m grateful for the friendships and relationships I’ve built throughout St. Louis County and St. Louis city as well. I am leaving public office, but I am not leaving my community.”

Erby said she’s already been communicating with Page about potential programs and proposals.

“I get texts from him late at night on the weekend saying, ‘Look at this program I found,’” Erby said. “We both have the same things at heart, and we’ve been a good team over the last two years, so it’s going to be fine.”

Page was in Washington, D.C., during the council meeting. He gave his weekly report through a video conference projected in the council chambers. He was joined by U.S. Reps. Lacy Clay, D-University City, and Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin. Page said he spoke with Clay about equity issues in north St. Louis County. Page said he also updated Wagner on the county prescription drug-monitoring initiative.

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

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Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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