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Government, Politics & Issues

Leadership Struggle Forces Abrupt Adjournment Of St. Louis County Council

A St. Louis County Council meeting ground to a halt Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2020 after a battle between councilmembers Lisa Clancy (left), D-Maplewood, and Tim Fitch, R-St. Louis County, over who had authority to run the meeting.
File photos / Carolina Hidalgo
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St. Louis Public Radio
A St. Louis County Council meeting ground to a halt Tuesday after a battle between councilmembers Lisa Clancy (left), D-Maplewood, and Tim Fitch, R-St. Louis County, over who had authority to run the meeting.

A dispute over who is eligible to choose the leadership of the St. Louis County Council brought its weekly meeting to a standstill Tuesday night.

Members voted to adjourn after barely 30 minutes, with both Councilwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, and Councilman Tim Fitch, R-St. Louis County, claiming the authority to run the meeting.

“It’s a shame we have to adjourn this meeting,” Clancy said as it ended. “There are people lined up to make comments, we have council business to attend to, but, you know, I’d gladly go home to make time to put my kid in bed tonight. I would rather do that than put up with this nonsense and disruption.”

The standoff began when Fitch asked council staff to read a resolution that declared the results of last week’s leadership election invalid. The county attorney had already issued a legal opinion that even if it was adopted, the resolution had no legal standing, an opinion that Fitch disagreed with.

Due to a charter change voters approved in November, the vote for chair and vice chair of the council occurred before newly elected members were sworn in. That meant Shalonda Webb, who ousted Rochelle Walton Gray for the 4th District seat, did not have a voice in that election. Gray was the deciding vote in Clancy’s reelection as chair.

Webb, who was sworn in Tuesday morning, joined fellow North County Democrat Rita Days, Fitch and Mark Harder, R-Ballwin, in supporting Fitch’s resolution.

“The people of the 4th District elected me to represent them,” Webb said. “They want my voice to be their voice, and they want me to fight for them. To remain neutral or abstain from such an important vote would be equivalent of me remaining silent on their behalf, and that is something that I just cannot do.”

Believing that Clancy was no longer chair, Days nominated Fitch to be presiding officer. Clancy refused to allow him to proceed with new elections, and Fitch refused to let Clancy proceed with the agenda.

“You may have been a bully as the police chief, but I will not let you bully this council,” Clancy said as Fitch and others attempted to open nominations for council chair and vice chair.

Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-St. Louis County, eventually lost his patience with his fellow Republican.

“There’s been no removal of the chair, or vice chair. You’re just being an obstructionist, and I’m sick of it,” Trakas said. “You’re a fool.”

The meeting adjourned seconds later. When they were sworn in earlier Tuesday, Webb and Trakas called for the council members to work together for the betterment of county residents.

Before the dispute flared, the council was able to work together long enough to approve legislation accepting $30 million in federal rental and utility assistance. In order to meet an 11 p.m. deadline, members had to take every step in the legislative process in one meeting, something that normally takes at a minimum of four weeks.

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