Sam Page | St. Louis Public Radio

Sam Page

Members of the Board of Freeholders listen to concerns from St. Louis aldermen during the board's first meeting Tuesday morning.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It would be easy to chalk up the delay in seating St. Louis’ Board of Freeholders nominees to dysfunction and gridlock — perhaps showcasing the inability of the city and county to work together.

But that would be an overly simplistic takeaway. In reality, the Board of Aldermen impasse showcases long-standing tensions about how some sort of city-county union would affect municipal services and black political power. And it also spotlights how vagaries in the Missouri Constitution make it difficult to figure out what inaction means.

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 Executive Sam Page speaks to guest at an event to kick off his 2020 re-election campaign on Nov. 21, 2019, in Bridgeton.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Saying there’s more work to be done, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page officially announced his bid to keep his job on Thursday.

With a Democratic primary on the horizon, Page told a crowd of supporters at the Machinists Hall in Bridgeton that he’s the best person to pick up the pieces of a county that went through a tumultuous time — and still faces big challenges.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said he needs a lot more money to run his office properly.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell wants at least $1.4 million more in next year’s budget than the county executive has recommended his office receive. 

Sam Page has included $11.9 million in general funding in his 2020 spending proposal to the county council. At a county council budget hearing Thursday, Bell asked to have that bumped to $13.3 million.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has nominated Dr. Laurie Punch, left and Thomasina Hassler to the county's Board of Police Commissioners.
Washington University School of Medicine, Thomasina Hassler via Facebook

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is keeping his promise to bring leadership change to the police department.

Page on Thursday announced that he had nominated Dr. Laurie Punch, a trauma surgeon, and Thomasina Hassler, a longtime educator, to the Board of Police Commissioners, which oversees the police department. He had two other nominees approved by the county council last week.

(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. 

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
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Sgt. Keith Wildhaber’s nearly $20 million jury verdict hit St. Louis County government like a lightning bolt. 

The huge award sparked internal and external scrutiny of one of Missouri’s largest law enforcement agencies about how it treats LGBTQ employees. It’s also prompted a debate about whether Missouri should pass more explicit laws to protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says he was surprised by a nearly $20 million verdict against his department for discriminating against a gay police sergeant.

“Without getting too much into a conversation about the verdict, yes, I was surprised by it,” Belmar said Tuesday. “But I would say that we have to take a look at these things as an opportunity to move forward.”

Attorney Michelle Schwerin, center right, and former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price, center left, speak with attendees after answering questions from St. Louis County councilmembers. Nov. 4, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar appears to have the support of the two nominees to the Board of Police Commissioners — at least for now.

Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price and Michelle Schwerin, an attorney at Capes Sokol, answered questions Monday from all but one of the County Council members who will vote on their confirmation. That could come Tuesday if background checks are completed in time.

Attorney Michelle Schwerin and former Supreme Court Judge Ray Price
Capes Sokol law firm, File Photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page nominated two new members to the five-person Board of Police Commissioners on Friday. 

Page picked former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price and local attorney Michelle Schwerin. The lawyers are meant to replace Laurie Westfall, the widow of former County Executive Buzz Westfall, and Roland Corvington, a former FBI agent who stepped down from the police board earlier in the week.

The nominations still need confirmation by the county council. Neither nominee could be reached for comment Friday.

St. Louis County police Chief Jon Belmar on July 24, 2017.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue and Jason Rosenbaum take a closer look at some of the biggest political stories of the week.

Topping the headlines was turmoil in the St. Louis County Police Department after a jury awarded a nearly $20 million verdict to Sgt. Keith Wildhaber in his discrimination suit. That decision is prompting calls for sweeping change in one of Missouri’s largest local law enforcement agencies.

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. 

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page answers question on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, from a group of reporters. Page is poised to appoint new members of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

In the first St. Louis County Council meeting since a jury awarded a police sergeant nearly $20 million in a discrimination lawsuit, County Executive Sam Page on Tuesday promised “serious changes” in the police department.

That came just hours after the county Board of Police Commissioners announced it is hiring an outside consultant to review the department.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, left, and St. Louis Assessor Jake Zimmerman, right, are planning to run in 2020 Democratic county executive primary. Zimmerman made his bid official on Oct. 29, 2019.
File photos I Carolina Hidalgo and Lara Hamdan I St. Louis Public Radio

Two of St. Louis County’s top Democratic officeholders are primed to run against each other in a 2020 special election for county executive.

St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman announced on Tuesday that he will run in next year’s Democratic primary for county executive. The current officeholder, Sam Page, plans to kick off his campaign for the position next month.

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

The head of the St. Louis County board that oversees the police department quit suddenly Monday, a day after County Executive Sam Page said publicly he was seeking to replace members of the panel

The board’s chairman, former FBI agent Roland Corvington, resigned without explanation in a text message to Page on Monday.

St. Louis County Police Department Chief John Belmar gives update on case involving to shot police officers
File photo | Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and several county council members want an immediate change in police administration following a nearly $20 million verdict against the county in a discrimination lawsuit by a gay officer.

And one council member called on Police Chief Jon Belmar to resign.

Page released a statement Sunday that called for the appointment of new members to the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners. The commission is a civilian oversight board that reviews police department policies and appoints the St. Louis County police chief.

St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-south St. Louis County, voted against a few nominees to the Board of Freeholders that were proposed by County Executive Sam Page.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council signed off on eight of nine nominees to the regional Board of Freeholders on Tuesday night.

It is waiting to vote on the ninth nominee, independent Dee Joyner, until next week, said the council’s presiding officer, Ernie Trakas. The county council members haven’t had a chance to interview Joyner yet because she has been out of the country.
 

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page's nominees to the Board of Freeholders await a committee hearing on Oct. 15, 2019, in Clayton.
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday grilled most of County Executive Sam Page’s nominees to the Board of Freeholders, a 19-person body that could rearrange the governance of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

One particular point of contention was that only one of Page’s selections lives in unincorporated St. Louis County. Other council members wanted to know the potential board members’ views on whether St. Louis should become a municipality within St. Louis County.

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

The St. Louis County Council is expected to take up a proposal to ban the use of self-deleting text message apps for government business.

Councilwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, asked staff last week to draft legislation that prohibits the use of self-deleting text apps when communicating about county business. She said she plans to introduce the policy at a county council meeting over the next several weeks. 

The Loop Trolley currently operates Thursdays through Sundays, beginning at noon.
File Photo | Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The Loop Trolley could become insolvent unless it comes up with $200,000 in November, according to the company’s president. 

The Loop Trolley Co. requested $200,000 from the St. Louis County Transit Fund in September to keep the trolley running for the rest of the year, company President John S. Meyer Jr. said in an email Saturday. It also requested $500,000 to operate next year. 

If the company does not receive financial assistance, the trolley could stop operating as soon as Nov. 15, Meyer said. 

A MetroLink train
File Photo | St. Louis Public Radio

This story was updated at 2:49 p.m. on Oct. 9, 2019 with comments from Bi-State CEO Taulby Roach. 

The St. Louis County Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to send the Bi-State Development Agency about two-thirds of the money it requested for its annual budget.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson
File photos I Carolina Hidalgo and Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

We’re trying something new on the latest episode of Politically Speaking. Instead of interviewing a single guest or zeroing in on a single topic, St. Louis Public Radio’s political team is introducing a show that rounds up the week’s news.

This week, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue, Jason Rosenbaum and Jaclyn Driscoll talk about the latest developments with the Board of Freeholders — a 19-person body that could place a plan before voters shaking up St. Louis and St. Louis County government. 

St. Louis County Council Chairman Sam Page declines to answer questions following a special meeting Thursday night.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page on Tuesday nominated nine people to serve on the Board of Freeholders, which will soon examine the future of St. Louis and St. Louis County governance.

The nominees include Mark Mantovani, who lost the 2018 Democratic nomination for county executive to Steve Stenger, and former Bi-State Development Agency CEO John Nations.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, Gov. Mike Parson and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson will appoint the Board of Freeholders.
File photos I Carolina Hidalgo and Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:30 p.m. with names of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson's appointees. 

The clock is officially ticking to appoint the Board of Freeholders, a 19-member body that could determine the future of St. Louis and St. Louis County governance. 

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page must appoint most of the members to the board in the next 10 days. But the two Democratic officials have different interpretations on how much time they have to act — and how quickly the city and county’s legislative branches must approve the picks. 

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced plans for the state to help combat violent crime in St. Louis and St. Louis County. Sept. 19, 2019
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has pledged money and manpower to help St. Louis and St. Louis County address an increase in violent crime.

“We know that we have a serious problem with violent crime that must be addressed,” Parson said Thursday at a news conference in St. Louis. “As your governor, and a former law enforcement officer for more than 22 years, protecting the citizens of our state is one of the utmost importance to my administration.”

The announcement came after a day of meetings with local political, religious and law enforcement leaders.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page signs ethics executive orders on Sept. 18, 2019.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has signed executive orders aimed at beefing up ethics regulations. 

It’s part of Page’s continued response to his predecessor Steve Stenger’s resignation and impending incarceration on corruption charges.

For many out-of-state visitors driving to St. Louis, the Gateway Arch is their first glimpse of Missouri.
File photo I David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Ben DeClue wants to be invited to a very exclusive club.

The Benton Park resident joined more than 100 people who live in St. Louis in trying to join what’s known as the Board of Freeholders. If he makes the cut, DeClue will be part of a 19-person body that could present voters with a plan to end the so-called “Great Divorce” between St. Louis and St. Louis County — or offer nothing at all.

A group known as Better Together is proposing a plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. They're planning to get the measure on the 2020 ballot.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis region is about to rekindle a debate over whether to potentially merge St. Louis and St. Louis County.

The Municipal League of Metro St. Louis turned in the final signatures Monday to kick off what’s known as the Board of Freeholders. That 19-person body will have a year to present St. Louis and St. Louis County voters with a city-county merger plan.

Pat Kelly is the executive director of the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis, and Jason Rosenbaum is St. Louis Public Radio's political correspondent.
EVIE HEMPHILL | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Better Together, the plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County through a statewide initiative, withdrew its proposal this past spring. In its place developed a plan to put together a Board of Freeholders, which would have the ability to either draft a plan that could merge the city and county, or drop the idea altogether. 

The Municipal League of Metro St. Louis is in the process of submitting petitions to the election boards of the city and county that would begin the Board of Freeholders process. 

St. Louis County Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway
JULIA O'DONOGHUE | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO / St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway is the latest guest on the Politically Speaking podcast. The Chesterfield Democrat talked to St. Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Julie O’Donoghue about her childhood in rural Illinois and her first month in office. 

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