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Judges, sheriff reach agreement on chief deputy's pay

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A political battle between the St. Louis Sheriff's Department and the judges of the 22nd Circuit Court has ended, but the war continues.

On Tuesday, after a month of opposition, the judges officially approved the department's hiring of former alderman Steven C. Roberts Sr. as chief deputy, worth $89,700 a year.

In a memorandum to Sheriff Vernon Betts, Circuit Judge Timothy J. Wilson wrote that the circuit's personnel committee, which he chairs, found that Roberts now complies with the requirement to pass a physical fitness test.

Last month, in a letter from Presiding Judge Michael K. Mullen the judges asserted that Roberts had not completed the test, required of all non-clerical employees, and asked Comptroller Darlene Green to remove him from the payroll.

Sources have said this was yet another shot in the ongoing spat between the sheriff's department and the circuit judges, who want the sheriff's job to be an appointed position rather than an elected one.

To bolster their argument, the judges also released on Tuesday a statement repeating their strong desire to have the sheriff's job be an appointed position, rather than an elected one.

"The judges need a professional in the sheriff’s office, not an elected political figure making patronage hires on a political basis. The old structure of politicians and patronage staffs simply does not provide the kind of professionalism and accountability required ..."

A main responsibility for the department is to provide courthouse security. Judges have contended that security would be better if the judges could pick the sheriff.

Betts told P-D courts reporter Joel Currier that he feels the judges are trying to usurp his authority as an elected official, and that he should have the discretion to hire his executive staff without undue interference.

Currently, there are several bills before the Missouri legislators that call for a variety of changes in the city sheriff's department.

Roberts has a law degree and a master's degree from Washington University. He was on the St. Louis Board of Alderman from 1979 to 1993. Following his political career, he worked with his brother, Michael Roberts, as a real estate developer.

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