ST. LOUIS COUNTY • Floyd Warmann never specified the conflict of interest he said was the reason he resigned last week from the St. Louis County Police Board.
But earlier this year, top county officials decided it was not a conflict for the board’s chairman, Gregory Sansone, to benefit from a $9.2 million construction project at county police headquarters.
SM Mechanical LCC, in which Sansone is an owner, is receiving about 40 percent of the project cost — $3.7 million — to do heating and air-conditioning work.
County officials concluded in January that the arrangement does not violate the county charter because SM is a subcontractor, hired not by the county directly but by its general contractor in transforming part of the building in Clayton into a lab.
That contract is with the county, not the police board, although the charter says, in part: “No officer or employee of the county, whether elected or appointed shall in any manner whatsoever be interested in or receive any benefit from the profits or emoluments of any contract, job, work or service for the county ...”
County Executive Charlie Dooley declined to discuss the contract with a reporter Friday. He could not be reached for additional questions Tuesday. He appoints the police board members. Sansone, an independent, joined the board in 2007.
Sansone, interviewed Tuesday night at his home in Kirkwood, said: “There’s no conflict. The only way (for it) to be a conflict is to have anything with St. Louis County. I have no conflicts with St. Louis County.”
County Counselor Pat Reddington and Dooley have maintained that Sansone’s financial interest in the police department job is not a concern, since the county’s contract is with ICS Construction Services Inc.
“I don’t care frankly who their subs are because the county has no contract with SM,” Reddington said. “If SM Mechanical had a contract with the county, I’d be concerned, or maybe Sansone directly, because you can’t have a contract with the county. But this is a complete separation.
“It’s a public works contract, and, to my knowledge, no one from the county who had contact with ICS knew Sansone had an ownership interest with SM.”
David Wrone, acting spokesman for Dooley, said Tuesday, “This is a competitively bid subcontracting process undertaken by ICS, and St. Louis County had no involvement in it.”
CONTRACTOR SEES NO POLITICS
ICS began the work in October and is now about a month away from completion, said Greg Zavaglia, vice president of operations for the St. Louis-based company.
It will turn nearly 40,000 square feet on the third, fourth and penthouse floors of police headquarters into the new crime lab.
Earlier this year, the county director of operations, Garry Earls, characterized SM’s air-handling work as some of the job’s “most critical” because of the needs of highly sensitive lab equipment.
SM Mechanical LLC was incorporated in 2010, according to state filings. Sansone is not separately listed but has identified himself as an owner. He declined to describe the extent of that stake Tuesday night, saying, “I don’t like to share my personal investments or what I have or what I may not have.”
Zavaglia said this was the first time ICS worked with SM Mechanical, a relationship he said was based entirely on its low bid, not politics.
“We didn’t even know Mr. Sansone was involved with the police board at the time,” Zavaglia said. “We received no pressure from anyone on the board or from the county to make a selection, it was completely up to us to make that selection.”
Zavaglia said the first his company knew of Sansone’s police board role was at a ceremony in October where county Police Chief Tim Fitch and Dooley took turns swinging a sledgehammer into a wall signifying the start of the project.
No one from the police board would discuss the lab project with a reporter.
Warmann has not been available for comment since resigning Thursday. Among remaining police commissioners, Ray Wagner referred questions about the lab to Sansone, John Saracino referred questions to Dooley’s office and Roland Corvington referred questions to “those in county government who handle contracting.”
Fitch said he learned of Sansone’s connection to the project in a conversation between them in January.
“I was concerned it could be a conflict based on the language in the charter, and at that point I turned it over to the administration, and it’s up to them to deal with it,” Fitch said.
AN EARLIER EXCEPTION
In 2007, the year Sansone joined the police board, the County Council used its power to make an exception to the conflict-of-interest policy so he could also continue to collect rent from the county.
In a letter dated Feb. 6, 2007, Dooley alerted County Council members that Sansone owned North Oaks Plaza, in which the county’s career center is located.
“Because St. Louis County pays rent to Mr. Sansone, I ask that the council pass a resolution permitting this business relationship with Mr. Sansone,” Dooley wrote.
The council unanimously approved the request.
The county paid North Oaks Group Inc. about $2 million from September 2008 through December 2012.
When asked earlier this year whether he was aware of any other contracts between Sansone and the county, Dooley said, “We may have rented some space from them at some point, but I don’t think he does that anymore, so that’s not a violation.”
A COMMISSIONER LEAVES
The resignation of Warmann, a businessman and longtime behind-the-scenes player in Missouri Democratic Party politics, arrived one day after U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan told Fitch it was coming. How Callahan knew and why he alerted Fitch are not clear.
A source close to the situation said Fitch immediately banned Warmann from secure areas of county police buildings.
Callahan told the Post-Dispatch he heard the news from someone else and that he frequently had conversations with Fitch.
Warmann’s lawyer, Burton Shostak, said his client is not under criminal investigation.
The resignation letter Warmann submitted said he that he anticipated a conflict with a business but did not explain further.
Valerie Schremp Hahn, Steve Giegerich and Kevin McDermott of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
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