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St. Louis County voters ban county executives from holding side jobs

A voting booth with American Stars and Stripes on it and the message "vote here."
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Voting polls on Tuesday at Wydown Middle School in St. Louis County.

St. Louis County voters have put an explicit ban on the county executive holding another job.

The proposal, known as Proposition B, passed with 61% approval in final unofficial results Tuesday, well above the simple majority needed to adopt charter changes. Its backers made no secret that it is targeted at the current county executive, Democrat Sam Page. He has continued to work as an anesthesiologist, he says on nights and weekends to keep up his medical license.

“Voters are paying attention to what Sam Page has been up to since he’s been the county executive,” said Republican Councilman Tim Fitch, who sponsored the bill putting the charter change on the ballot. “He’s been thumbing his nose at the charter, saying it doesn’t apply to him.”

Fitch and other supporters, like fellow Republican Councilman Mark Harder, say a legal opinion from the St. Louis County counselor makes it clear that charter changes take effect when the election is certified, which will take two to three weeks.

“He is going to have to pick one career over the other,” Harder said of Page. “I’ll be anxious to see which career he picks.”

But Ken Warren, a professor of political science at St. Louis University, said recently the charter change legally would not immediately affect Page.

Dr. Sam Page, St. Louis County Executive, gives a public update on rental assistance during the COVID-1 pandemic on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, at the St. Louis County Government building in Clayton, Mo.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.
St. Louis Public Radio
Sam Page, St. Louis County executive, gives a public update on rental assistance during the pandemic last September at the St. Louis County Government building in Clayton.

“It wasn’t a condition of Sam Page’s employment when he became county executive,” Warren said of the outright ban on other employment. “So all of a sudden, they’re changing the conditions of his employment.”

Unless Page voluntarily steps down from office, removing him would require court action.

Voters also approved a charter change that requires the county executive to pay for all appointed employees out of his budget, rather than spreading the cost across departments.

Page, who is running for reelection, had sent out a campaign mailer in recent days opposing both measures. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

“I think it was a really bad night for Sam Page,” Fitch said of the results.

Other ballot issues

St. Louis County voters rejected a 40-year lease between the county and the Raintree School for a house in Queeny Park that was formerly the location of the American Kennel Club’s Museum of the Dog.

Local governments asking for the ability to levy a tax on online sales also had a rough night. Voters in just 11 of the 27 municipalities said yes to the request — St. Louis County as a whole was not among them. Kinloch voters deadlocked on approving a use tax, with each side getting four votes. It passed in Wilbur Park, a tiny village in south county, by two votes, and failed in Glen Echo Park, a village of fewer than 200 people in north county, by a single vote.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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