LADUE — A state audit is planned for St. Louis County and its economic development agency in the fallout from former County Executive Steve Stenger’s federal guilty plea on corruption charges.
Democratic Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway said at a news conference Wednesday that she accepted a request from the County Council seeking the independent review.
Galloway’s Public Corruption and Fraud Division also will examine the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and the associated development agencies it staffs, such as the St. Louis County Port Authority. The group’s former chief, Stenger appointee Sheila Sweeney, pleaded guilty to a federal charge related to Stenger’s scheme.
In a statement, Partnership Chairman Karlos Ramirez said the organization has already made changes to improve transparency and that “with our new leadership, we welcome the opportunity to work with State Auditor Nicole Galloway.”
Stenger, a Democrat, was indicted April 29 on three counts for directing county contracts to campaign donors. He resigned that day and pleaded guilty four days later. He faces sentencing in August.
Galloway’s audit will focus on practices related to contracting and procurement. She said work will begin in June and it’s too early to say how long the audit will take.
“We will have a conversation with law enforcement about what else we need to know as we embark upon this audit,” she told reporters. “When there are instances of public corruption, I am absolutely paying attention.”
Among the schemes outlined in the plea was one in which developer John Rallo, who gave campaign cash to Stenger, won bids on two properties in Wellston that were purchased for a total of $525,000, far less than the county spent cleaning them up and preparing them for sale. Rallo, who pleaded not guilty to charges related to the scheme on Friday, also received a “sham” $130,000 Port Authority contract, prosecutors say.
Galloway said the county audit won’t impact other audits underway, including an ongoing look at St. Louis and its use of tax incentives.