Keith Wildhaber | St. Louis Public Radio

Keith Wildhaber

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar speaks with a St. Louis Public Radio reporter at his office in downtown Clayton on Tuesday. Nov. 5, 2019
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The latest edition of Politically Speaking’s weekly roundup show zeroes in on two big stories that made waves in St. Louis County government: Police Chief Jon Belmar’s retirement and the settlement of Lt. Keith Wildhaber’s discrimination case.

Those two events occurred within hours of one another. And St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Julie O’Donoghue and Rachel Lippmann explained how they’ll impact county government going forward.

Keith Wildhaber
JULIA O'DONOGHUE | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Lt. Keith Wildhaber has no plans to leave the St. Louis County Police Department anytime soon, even though the county is going to pay him millions of dollars over the next two years as part of a discrimination lawsuit settlement.

“I got 26 years in. I want to finish my career on my terms,” Wildhaber said Wednesday in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — the first time he’s spoken publicly since reaching the settlement.

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

Updated at 1:15 p.m. Feb. 12 with comments from Wildhaber's attorneys

St. Louis County has agreed to pay a police officer $10.25 million to settle a workplace discrimination verdict.

A jury in October awarded Lt. Keith Wildhaber, who is gay, nearly $20 million after agreeing that he had been passed over for promotions because of his sexual orientation. The two sides then went into mediation to try to reach a settlement.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page speaks with reporters on Feb. 11, 2020, about a settlement for Lt. Keith Wildhaber.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council will consider a bonding plan to pay, at least temporarily, for a discrimination settlement with a St. Louis County police officer.

It’s a move that’s likely to pass, even as St. Louis County Executive Sam Page’s administration will seek to recoup the funds from insurance plans.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar speaks with a St. Louis Public Radio reporter at his office in downtown Clayton on Tuesday. Nov. 5, 2019
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 6:45 p.m. Feb. 10, with details of Lt. Keith Wildhaber's $10.25 million settlement with St. Louis County

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar will retire April 30 after 34 years with the department, six as chief

“It has been an honor to work with and for the women and men of the St. Louis County Police Department,” Belmar said in a statement released Monday. “The dedication, sacrifice, and bravery of those that work for this department is unmatched. The citizens and businesses of St. Louis County deserve nothing but the best, and I firmly believe they receive that from us every day.”

He was not available for any additional comment Monday, according to the department.

St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

At 34, Lisa Clancy is the youngest member of the St. Louis County Council and one of its newer members — she only joined the council a year ago. 

Last week, her colleagues unanimously chose her as chairwoman.

A Democrat from Maplewood, Clancy has pushed for more affordable housing resources in the county. She’s also part of the progressive wing of the board, which is controlled by Democrats.

St. Louis police Sgt. Heather Taylor is president of the Ethical Society of Police.
Heather Taylor

In mid-December, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page touted his police department’s promotion of Keith Wildhaber as a key step toward thoughtful change within the department. The news that Wildhaber will lead a new diversity and inclusion unit came in the wake of a $20 million verdict in Wildhaber’s favor — after a jury agreed that county police had discriminated against the gay officer because of his sexual orientation.

But the Ethical Society of Police, which represents many black officers in the St. Louis region, soon put out a statement that was significantly less enthusiastic.

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

The St. Louis County police officer who successfully sued the department for failing to promote him because he is gay has been promoted.

The department announced Thursday night that now-Lt. Keith Wildhaber will head its new Diversity and Inclusion Unit. 

Susan McGraugh, Mark Smith and Bill Freivogel joined host Sarah Fenske for our monthly Legal Roundtable. | 11-27-19
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Plenty of local and regional legal issues are in the news. Attorneys for St. Louis County are again arguing a judge should rule against a gay police sergeant in a discrimination lawsuit because Missouri law doesn’t include sexual orientation as a protected class.

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

In October, attorneys for St. Louis County fighting a discrimination case filed by a gay police sergeant made the argument that a judge should rule against him because Missouri law doesn’t include sexual orientation as a protected class.

The legal maneuver prompted an angry response from County Executive Sam Page, who said he was “horrified and surprised that argument was used, and I don’t want to see it used again.”

But outside attorneys hired by the county made that exact argument in a court filing this week.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar listens to U.S. Attorney General  Sessions' remarks. (03/31/17)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County is headed to mediation with a police officer who was awarded a huge jury verdict in a discrimination case.

A jury found that Sgt. Keith Wildhaber was denied promotions for being gay — and was retaliated against when he lodged formal complaints. He was awarded nearly $20 million.

(via Flickr/Tracy O)

Under the best-case scenario, St. Louis County has about $12.5 million readily available to pay a police officer who won a nearly $20 million verdict in a workplace discrimination lawsuit two weeks ago.

But county officials and legal experts say it’s likely the county won’t end up owing Sgt. Keith Wildhaber near the amount he has been initially awarded. Existing state laws and court precedent suggest that $20 million verdict could be reduced on appeal or through a settlement. 

Police Chief Jon Belmar (left) and Ron Corvington (right) in 2014
File Photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8 p.m. Oct. 30 with comment from Hazel Erby, county director of diversity, equity and inclusion — 

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page on Tuesday promised changes to police department leadership after a sergeant won a nearly $20 million discrimination suit by arguing that he was passed over for promotions because he is gay. 

But a lawyer for the county last week argued that the judge should rule against Sgt. Keith Wildhaber because Missouri’s nondiscrimination act doesn’t include sexual orientation as a protected class. 

Public speakers at a St. Louis County Council meeting on Tuesday questioned the department’s commitment to reform and the sincerity of the county’s response.