The issue • 2 on County Council say they were asked to consider changing vote on bid to firm that employs son. One reaction • 'It's not illegal, but some people might consider it unethical,' SLU political science professor says.
Two members of the St. Louis County Council say John Temporiti, County Executive Charlie Dooley's campaign treasurer and former key staffer, asked them to reconsider their votes on legislation that would have benefited a company that employs his son.
The two council members were not told that Temporiti had a son working for the company when the legislation was considered - and rejected - by the County Council in May.
But within the past month, he invited council members Steve Stenger and Barbara Fraser to separate lunches during which he asked them why they had not voted to approve a $100,000 contract with the St. Louis marketing firm Hughes.
The company would have provided for an ongoing public education program regarding recycling and for future public awareness campaigns on key waste management issues. Temporiti's son, John Temporiti Jr., is senior brand manager for the privately held firm.
Temporiti said Thursday that he was not trying to use his influence as the treasurer for Dooley's re-election campaign and as Dooley's former head of governmental affairs to influence the council members' votes.
"I was confused on why they had voted against it," Temporiti said. "This is a father whose son is in a company and he doesn't have any financial interest in that company, he is just a salaried employee. John (his son) called and said, 'Can you just find out what happened?'"
St. Louis University political science professor Ken Warren said he did not think Temporiti had any legal responsibility to disclose that his son worked for Hughes.
But he added that someone with Temporiti's political heft - which includes having been chairman of the state Democratic Party - could be intimidating to an officeholder, and particularly to one who may have higher political ambitions.
"He's using his political clout and his position of power possibly for personal gain and it's not illegal, but some people might consider it unethical," Warren said Friday. "I think the color is gray in terms of the ethics of it."
Temporiti said he did not disclose his relationship with his son when the legislation was first brought up because he did not want to exert any influence on the vote.
He also said he thought council approval would be automatic because the company was awarded the bid by the county health department, and the council had moved the bill through the first step of the legislative process.
Hughes representatives could not be reached.
Stenger, a Democrat from south St. Louis County, said Thursday that he voted against the bill because he was not convinced the county needed to spend $100,000 on a public relations campaign regarding waste management.
"Questions weren't answered appropriately about why it was needed," he said. "The first question that we (the council) asked was 'how did this company get picked' and that wasn't answered."
He said he did not know Temporiti's son worked for the company when he voted against the legislation and that he wished Temporiti had disclosed his relationship.
A couple of weeks after he cast his vote, Stenger said people started telling him that Temporiti was mad at him for not voting in favor of the bill. "That's when I found out that his son worked for Hughes."
Stenger said he does not know Temporiti well, but that the Gallop, Johnson, Neuman attorney is often at County Council meetings. He said he was surprised when he heard Temporiti was upset with him for not having cast a favorable vote.
Then, slightly more than a month ago, Stenger said Temporiti invited him to lunch at Dominic's Trattoria in Clayton.
"I wasn't sure what it (the lunch) was about. He said, 'I think you're going to have another opportunity to reconsider your vote for the Hughes group,'" Stenger said. "He asked me if I would reconsider or change my vote on the Hughes contract. If it came back up, would I approve it?"
Stenger said he told Temporiti that if the bill was brought up again, "We would have to evaluate it and there would have to be full disclosure and even more scrutiny than we gave it before. If it is the same proposal, I told him it wasn't going to get approved."
He also said he mentioned to Temporiti that he should have mentioned that his son worked for the company and "he said he probably should have disclosed that."
Barbara Fraser, D-University City, said Wednesday that Temporiti asked her to reconsider her vote on the contract at a lunch meeting at Schneithorst's restaurant in Ladue.
He brought restaurateur Kim Tucci to the lunch, which was about a month ago. Tucci is campaign chairman for Jim Schoemehl, who is running for Fraser's 5th District council seat. Fraser is leaving the County Council to run for the state Senate to replace Sen. Joan Bray who is leaving because of term limits.
Fraser brought a staff aide to the lunch but Temporiti and Tucci arranged for the aide to sit at another table while they spoke. Fraser smiled and didn't comment when asked whether she thought it was appropriate for Dooley's campaign treasurer and another well-known campaign fundraiser to question her vote on the Hughes bill.
Temporiti said it didn't occur to him that the council members would feel intimidated by his questions.
"I didn't worry that they would feel pressure," he said.
When asked whether she would change her vote if the bill were to be brought up again, Fraser said, "I would look it up with the Department of Health to see if there were any ramifications from what we asked. I voted against it the first time because I had questions of the Department of Health that didn't get resolved."
Temporiti said he did not know whether the bill would be brought back. It was submitted originally by Dooley, who routinely submits bills on behalf of county department heads, according to Temporiti.
Dooley could not be reached to discuss the matter on Friday.
Hughes was selected for the contract by the county health department, which asked for proposals for a program not to exceed $100,000. Craig LeFebvre, a spokesman for the health department, said he believed six or eight companies submitted proposals and he did not know why Hughes was selected.
Money for the contract would have come from the educational materials account in the Solid Waste Management Fund. That money is derived from the fee the county levies against waste haulers who dump their trash at the county landfill.
Temporiti said the money is earmarked for spending on education regarding recycling and waste management.