The St. Louis County Council took the first step Tuesday in an attempt to remove County Executive Steve Stenger from office for not attending council meetings.
The council passed the resolution 4-2, calling for Bell to investigate Stenger. It argues Stenger is in violation of the county charter for skipping numerous council meetings. Stenger has said the language in the charter that he “shall” attend council meetings doesn’t mean he is required to do so. He attended Tuesday's meeting, but left before the vote. The resolution adds to the already heightened tension between the county executive and the council.
The effort faces major obstacles. An opinion from the County Counselor’s office says only council members are required to attend meetings. St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, whose office would be charged with investigating the matter, has expressed little interest in getting involved.
Three of the council’s Democrats, Sam Page, Lisa Clancy and Rochelle Walton Gray, voted for the resolution — as well as Republican Ernie Trakas, who was initially against the proposal.
“Once it was clear based on the language in the resolution that that discretion was in no way compromised — that it was still up to the county prosecutor — I was comfortable moving the bill,” Trakas said. “I’m confident it will pass any judicial scrutiny that is foolish enough to be brought against it.”
Representatives of Stenger said Tuesday the resolution is one of a “series of political stunts.”
A memorandum from Associate County Counselor Mike Shuman argued that only council members are required to attend council meetings. The St. Louis County Charter states that a council member cannot miss more than four consecutive meetings without an excused absence.
Republicans Tim Fitch and Mark Harder voted against the resolution. Democrat Hazel Erby was absent. Harder voted against the resolution on the basis it wouldn’t hold legal muster.
“I don't want to spend a lot of time in court if we don’t have legal ground to stand on,” Harder said. “From what I see, I don’t see a legal side of this that would work, but it could do what it did tonight, which was express our frustrations.”
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