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Bill Miller

Bill Miller Jr., seen here in 2015, served as chief of staff to former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger from December 2017 until April 2019. (Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

CLAYTON — The chief of staff to former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger is scheduled to plead guilty on Friday in U.S. District Court to charges in the pay-to-play scheme that brought down his boss.

Bill Miller is scheduled to appear in court at 10 a.m. on Friday to plead guilty to theft of honest services through bribery and mail fraud. He is pleading guilty to an “information,” a formal criminal charge that does not require a grand jury vote.

The existence of a criminal case against Miller was revealed Thursday in an advisory emailed to area news reporters from the U.S. attorney’s office with the schedule for Miller’s court appearance. Details about the case were not revealed.

Miller did not respond Thursday to messages from a reporter seeking comment.

Miller was hired by Stenger in December 2017. He resigned on April 12, about three weeks after federal prosecutors served a subpoena to St. Louis County commanding a wide range of records. Miller said he was leaving “to pursue other employment opportunities.”

He is the fourth figure to be charged in the federal investigation of Stenger’s administration. Stenger pleaded guilty to three counts of the same theft of honest services charge on May 3. His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 9. He could face several years in prison.

Former St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony on May 10. The same day, businessman John Rallo, a Stenger campaign donor, pleaded not guilty to theft of honest services.

Conversations between Miller and other members of Stenger’s inner circle, secretly recorded by federal agents, made up some of the evidence against Stenger.

Miller was a Stenger appointee to the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and was part of an effort by Stenger to pressure Sweeney to award a lobbying contract to John Bardgett & Associates. The company and its principal had donated about $59,000 to Stenger, according to the indictment of Stenger.

Miller told Stenger’s policy chief, Jeff Wagener, on Oct. 30 that Sweeney had to award the contract to Bardgett or else it would be “disastrous” for her.

“Steve’s like, You don’t f---- — understand, this is how this works,” Miller said. “And I’m like, Yeah, I get it. It’s not a problem. We’ll take care of it. … Steve wants it, let’s get it done.”

Bardgett said in response that he has never placed any conditions on his contributions to Stenger’s campaign.

In another conversation recorded by federal agents, Stenger explained to Miller that awarding contracts to entities that supported him was part of the political game. “It’s the art of working with people I trust and know,” Stenger said.

Miller replied: “It’s the art of staying in power.”

An affidavit from an FBI agent to support a search warrant also revealed that Miller and Stenger in September were arranging a bribe for someone in connection with the redevelopment of the former Jamestown Mall.

In a recorded conversation Miller offered to handle “relationships” with an entity whose identity is blacked out in the affidavit, including working directly with another entity or intermediaries, also blacked out, to handle a “bribe payment.”

It was not clear who was offering the bribe, nor whom it was for. Stenger told Miller he would handle it himself.

A week later, Stenger informed Miller in another recorded conversation that the probability of an unidentified County Council member voting to approve the project was “about a hundred” percent, to which Miller replied, “This deal’s getting done.”

Miller, an attorney, was previously an administrative law judge from January to June 2017, acting policy director for then-Gov. Jay Nixon from May 2015 to January 2017. His family owns the Missourian Publishing Company in Washington, Mo. He is listed as vice president of the company in a document filed with the Missouri secretary of state.

Jeremy Kohler is an investigative reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.