Subpoena Seeks Information About County Contracts During Stenger Administration | St. Louis Public Radio

Subpoena Seeks Information About County Contracts During Stenger Administration

Apr 2, 2019

The federal grand jury subpoena of St. Louis County government is seeking a substantial amount of information about how St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger awarded contracts during his entire administration.

It also asked for copies of communications between Stenger and a host of people both inside and outside of county government.

The subpoena, which St. Louis Public Radio obtained on Tuesday, has roiled Stenger’s administration — and prompted some members of the St. Louis County Council to call for the Democratic official’s resignation.

Among other things, the subpoena, which is seeking documents from the very first day of Stenger’s administration to the present, demands:

  • A host of information on how St. Louis County awarded contracts.
  • Records and documents relating to “no bid” contracts, including “contracts, notes, memoranda, correspondence, email communications and text messages.”
  • Information from St. Louis County Council meetings, including some that were closed.
  • Complete personnel files from Lou Aboussie, John Saracino, Sean Rhode, Patti Hageman and Lance LeComb. Those individuals either work for, or used to work for, St. Louis County government.
  • Any communications between Stenger, or any current or former county employees, with officials from the St. Louis County Port Authority, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and the St. Louis Land Clearance For Redevelopment Authority. The communications include notes, memoranda, email and text messages.
  • Communications between Stenger, or any current or former county employee, and several developers — John Rallo, Doug LaClair and Corey Christanell — who sought to purchase an industrial park in Wellston.

The subpoena commands the county to produce the documents by April 10. It also states the county “may turn over the subpoenaed documents to the agent serving this process, in lieu of appearing before” a federal grand jury.

The subpoena’s exact contents, which were first reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier on Tuesday, mark a frenzied time period in St. Louis County government. The existence of the subpoena and an outline of it was given to media outlets on March 24.

Stenger has long been accused of giving his campaign donors favorable treatment. That included the aforementioned Wellston industrial park sale and a bid to move county services to Northwest Plaza. But Stenger has denied he engaged in pay to play, most recently on a March 7 edition of St. Louis on the Air.

Stenger promised to fully comply with the subpoena. But some council members, including Councilman Tim Fitch, R-St. Louis County, have called for Stenger to step down. Others, like Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-South St. Louis County, have said such a move is premature.

Council votes to make subpoena public

Meanwhile, members of the St. Louis County Council voted to make the subpoena public by a 6-0 vote. Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, abstained.

“This is serious information," said Councilman Mark Harder, R-Ballwin. "These are serious allegations. And we’ve always been a very transparent council. And we want to make sure that everybody knows what their government that they’re paying for is involved in.”

During Tuesday's meeting, Harder asked what Stenger was going to do to ensure "the impartiality and openness in complying with the subpoena as it's been presented."

Stenger responded: "This is a matter that the chief legal counsel for the county is handling.  And that would be a question that would best be placed to him."

Stenger was referring to St. Louis County Counselor Peter Krane. He told Harder he was handling the production of what the subpoena requested "independent of anybody else."

Harder then asked Stenger how many cell phones he posssessed and whether he turned them over to Krane. Stenger declined to answer Harder's question.

"Right now is really not the time for grandstanding," Stenger said. "It's really a time for compliance. And that's what Peter Krane is going to ensure. I mean, politicizing this isn't doing anybody any good."

Fitch, the county's former police chief, has said it could be months between the subpoena and a decision to indict anymore. When asked if he had a message for county residents, he said: "I would tell them hang in there."

"This will get resolved. I wish it could be done quickly," said Fitch, R-St. Louis County. "But as of right now, we have a process to go through. And people have not been accused of any crimes. There’s been no talk of that at all. But certainly there is a federal investigation underway. And let’s see how that plays out.”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdaivs

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