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St. Louis County Council ethics committee wants closer look at colleague’s weed work

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St. Louis County Council meeting

County Councilwoman Lisa D. Clancy looks at her monitor during a St. Louis County Council meeting in Clayton on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

CLAYTON — Not only did a St. Louis County Council committee vote unanimously to delve deeper into Councilwoman Lisa Clancy’s ties to the marijuana industry, it also widened its scope to include several other larger players involved.

The council’s ethics committee said Friday it wants to continue researching whether Clancy, D-5th District, violated conflict of interest measures in 2019.

Along with the committee wanting Clancy to appear, it also said it would like to hear from County Executive Sam Page and influential state lobbyist Steve Tilley.

The specific issue being examined by the committee, first reported by the Post-Dispatch, is that Clancy was paid about $4,500 by the Summers Compton Wells law firm to work on marijuana license applications at the same time she was actively working to influence the county’s zoning ordinance regulating marijuana locations.

“We need to dig deeper into this arrangement,” committee chairman Mark Harder, R-7th District, said.

The other committee members voting to dig deeper were Council Chair Rita Heard Days, D-1st District, and Councilman Tim Fitch, R-3rd District. The fourth committee member, Councilwoman Shalonda Webb, D-4th District, was absent.

“We have more work to do. I’m not (at the point) to say that Councilwoman Clancy did anything wrong,” Fitch said. “But let’s get this all on table ... bring in witnesses and ask them specific questions.”

Fitch said along with Page and Tilley, he would like to hear from the law firm, which is in Frontenac; the marijuana company, VG-St. Louis; and Winston Calvert, Page’s chief of staff during the time in question.

Clancy did not attend the ethics meeting. She has refused to be interviewed by phone or in person, saying she would only respond to written questions.

Earlier this week, she provided a letter from the law firm, dated July 11, 2019, that states the firm concluded her work was not a conflict.

The information about Clancy’s marijuana work came to light through the person who hired her in 2019. Shelby Partridge, who worked on marijuana license applications for the law firm, released text messages and emails to the Post-Dispatch that included exchanges between her and Clancy.

Council members Harder and Fitch also received similar information, anonymously through the mail.

Partridge, who was in a personal relationship with Calvert at the time, said she hired Clancy on Calvert’s recommendation.

Calvert could not be reached for comment Friday. Previously, he said Clancy was one of several people he recommended, but that he did so before joining Page’s staff.

Clancy, who is unopposed in the Aug. 2 primary, first joined the council in January 2019.

Her marijuana-related work began around June 24, 2019, and lasted until about Aug. 7. The council began deliberating the marijuana zoning ordinance on July 2 and finally passed it on Sept. 10.

Clancy’s work consisted of completing answers to questions that companies had to provide for state license applications, according to an email sent by Clancy to Partridge.

About one month into Clancy’s work, on July 31, 2019, Clancy told Partridge she would have to stop working on the applications because “Sam kinda flipped out about it the other night.”

Page, who has twice said he does not recall the incident with Clancy, provided this statement from his office about his appearance before the committee: “If the County Council ethics committee has a legitimate question about something in their jurisdiction, Dr. Page is happy to consider the request.”

The statement continued to imply the action was politically motivated: “Requests three days before an election should be seen for what they are,” it said.

Clancy’s financial interest statement filed with the county for the 2019 calendar year did not list any payments from the law firm.

The zoning ordinance that was being discussed governed the operation of marijuana growers, suppliers and dispensaries in St. Louis County.

The original bill forwarded by the county’s Planning Commission recommended a 300-foot buffer between marijuana locations and churches and schools — the buffer size preferred by the marijuana industry.

Clancy opposed the 1,000-foot buffer, recommended by the council public improvements committee, because it was a burden on those in need of medical assistance and on marijuana companies.

The planning commission revised the buffer to 500 feet, a compromise that also was rejected by the committee, which was chaired by Fitch.

The final bill that was passed Sept. 10 by the council specified a 1,000-foot buffer. Clancy and Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway, D-2nd District, voted against it.

On Jan. 1, 2020, Clancy’s campaign team received a $500 contribution from Tilley, a former Republican state House Speaker and close ally of Gov. Mike Parson.

Tilley now is a lobbyist for marijuana companies and also lobbies for the state’s largest medical marijuana trade group, Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association (MoCann).

The contribution was made on Jan. 1, 2020, and reported on Clancy’s fundraising report filed on April 15.

That contribution came less than two weeks after a political action committee tied to Tilley and Gardner Capital, a development company Tilley lobbies for, contributed $2,049 to Page’s campaign, the Post-Dispatch reported.

According to a Kansas City Star story in November 2019, Tilley and Gardner Capital, a company for whom Tilley lobbies, were among several subjects of an FBI investigation into a possible pay-to-play scheme in Independence, Missouri.

Tilley, reached by phone Friday, said that he was out of the country and was unaware of situation with Clancy and the ethics committee.

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