St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, the county Board of Police Commissioners, and county citizens have had a summer full of embarrassment, and it not looks as though the shenanigans will continue into the fall.
The latest mishap involves police board nominee and former gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence, who mistakenly called Chief of Police Tim Fitch and left a voicemail intended for Greg Sansone. This would be the same Greg Sansone who recently resigned his post as chairman of the police board amid questions about a county construction contract awarded to a business that he co-owns, a seeming conflict of interest.
Fitch asked the FBI to investigate Sansone and the board without running the idea past Dooley or his confidants in Clayton. Fitch has since said that political enemies are trying to dig up dirt on him and ruin his credibility.
On his blog, Fitch wrote that something similar happened last year, after he came out in opposition of speed cameras. At that time, he says former Post-Dispatch reporter Jake Wagman, now a political consultant, was digging through his files. “The political consultant is a former Post-Dispatch reporter and is known for his skill in research. Somebody was paying him good money to find dirt on me. He paid $250 just for my travel records.”
Wagman had worked for Mayor Francis Slay earlier this year, when he received $500 to research mayoral challenger Lewis Reed.
By the way, Slay will be holding a fundraiser for Dooley on September 26 at The Cheshire. For now, Slay has not abandoned the beleaguered Dooley, but that could change. Dooley would most likely be the lone candidate—Republican or Democrat—who is willing to even discuss a future city-county merger.
This is serious political intrigue, but Spence’s call is slapstick comedy.
Spence, thinking he was leaving a message for Sansone, called his potential service on the board “an interesting challenge.” He then tipped his hand on his feelings for Fitch’s actions by saying, “The investigations will prove out what you've said all along.”
The guy who told the state electorate as the Republican nominee for governor that he held an economics degree, when in reality it was in home economics, boldly predicts that Sansone won't face legal consequences from the contract his firm was awarded for the county crime lab.
Spence also said in the voicemail that he initially thought he was replacing Floyd Warmann, who mysteriously resigned his post on the board, rather than Sansone. The world is still waiting for the official reason Warmann resigned, and we might not ever find out. But his departure seems odd because Fitch—there’s that name again—says U.S Attorney Richard Callahan warned him the resignation was coming.
For the record, the Rev. Freddy Clark, founder of Shalom Church, is replacing Warmann, while Spence is taking Sansone’s seat. Labor leader Robert Soutier is openly skeptical about Spence’s appointment, calling him “anti-worker,” based on his campaign for governor. Soutier labled Clark’s appointment “suspicious.” In fact, the confirmation of both men has been held up for now; some county board members want further criminal background checks and other due diligence completed on both men.
I think that’s fair to ask of anyone nominated to a police or fire board—not just those caught up in the county’s current controversy.
With all the confusion, charges, and counter-charges swirling in the air, police board member Ray Wagner decided he has had enough, too. The husband of Congresswoman Ann Wagner and vice president of government and public affairs at Enterprise Holdings, Wagner said he resigned because of “increased professional responsibilities.” His resignation came just days after he was appointed interim chairman of the police board.
So here is where we stand: Fitch says he’s ready for a fight with his enemies; there are three unsettled seats on the county police board; and there is an ongoing federal investigation of the $3.7 million contract awarded Sansone’s SM Mechanical.
County Counselor Patricia Redington, who approved the deal with SM Mechanical, isn’t looking too good right now, nor is her quote in the Post-Dispatch: “If SM Mechanical had a contract with the county, I’d be concerned, or maybe Sansone directly, because you can’t have a contract with the county. But this is a complete separation."
Spence isn’t even officially on the board yet, and he looks foolish; Clark is probably wondering what he got himself into.
Meanwhile Dooley is hoping Slay’s fundraiser brings in some big dollars. If so, it will be the first good news he has received in quite a while.
Commentary by Alvin Reid