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St. Louis Econmic Development Patnership holds special meeting

Chairman of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership Karlos Ramirez and CEO Sheila Sweeney attend a special meeting for the Partnership board on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, at the Pierre Laclede Center in Clayton. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

Three days after the St. Louis County Council voted to release federal subpoenas seeking communications from St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership said Friday it would not release the subpoenas it received from the U.S. attorney’s office.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office has requested that we not share any information about its investigation, and we are fully cooperating with that office,” Partnership chairman Karlos Ramirez said in a statement. “We are not in a position to provide the requested subpoenas at this time based upon exemptions under the Sunshine Law.”

The Post-Dispatch requested the subpoenas under Missouri’s open records law last week after the Partnership voluntarily disclosed it had received them. The Partnership’s disclosure came a day after the Post-Dispatch reported that St. Louis County had received subpoenas from the U.S. attorney’s office for information on county contracts along with cellphone and email records from county employees and Stenger.

The county subpoena, signed by the U.S. attorney’s white collar chief Hal Goldsmith, also seeks Stenger’s communications since January 2015, the start of his first term, with Partnership employees and board members. It asks for the same communication records between two Partnership-staffed agencies, the St. Louis County Port Authority and the St. Louis County Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.

The Partnership cited exemptions in the Missouri Sunshine Law allowing records related to legal matters, real estate transactions and personnel matters to remain closed.

St. Louis County Council Chairman Sam Page said Friday the council had not asked for a copy of the subpoena served to the Partnership but that it may discuss it soon.

After complaining about a lack of communication and transparency from the Partnership, the council this year opted to begin releasing its roughly $4 million annual appropriation quarterly instead of in one sum. Page noted that the council has not yet approved the Partnership’s second quarter appropriation but that it will likely discuss the funding this month and what information it may need before approving that appropriation.

The Partnership has adequate reserves to operate in the meantime, Page said, adding that it plays an important role in the region’s economy.

In January, the Partnership board forced out CEO Sheila Sweeney, who took over shortly after Stenger was first elected. She oversaw several deals the Post-Dispatch reported on that awarded contracts to Stenger campaign donors. The federal subpoena sent to the county seeks communications between members of one of those companies and Stenger or other county employees.

Jeremy Kohler of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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