ST. LOUIS • Organizers of a two-part plan to dissolve the city’s recorder of deeds office and use the savings to buy police body cameras say they have collected nearly 45,000 signatures, more than double the 20,000 needed, to put their plan on the upcoming November ballot.
The plan was hatched by state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a Democrat, and activist Rex Sinquefield, a Republican.
Nasheed delivered the signatures to the Board of Elections office Thursday morning.
If those signatures are certified, a measure would be added to the Nov. 8 city ballot to amend the city’s charter to allow the assessor’s office to absorb the recorder of deeds’ office.
Nasheed and Sinquefield believe merging the two offices into one would free up $1 million — enough to launch a citywide body camera program, according to their internal estimates.
But first, 60 percent of city voters would have to vote for the plan. Next, the money would have to be realized, and then the police department and the police union would have to agree to launch a body camera program before the city’s roughly 800 uniformed patrol officers would start wearing them.
If successful, the plan would most certainly end the career of Sharon Quigley Carpenter, the city’s longtime recorder. It would also endanger the jobs of at least some of the recorder’s 39 other employees.
Carpenter has said the plan seems like a political attack based on a rough stretch she had two years ago when it was discovered that she had hired her great-nephew for summer work — a violation of the state’s nepotism law.
She was forced to resign, but she ran again later that year and won re-election with 61 percent of the vote.
Later, an audit found that she had misspent at least $3,000 of her office’s money.
Carpenter said she would fight to keep her office intact. She believes that a state statute that says “there shall be an office of recorder” in each county in the state will ultimately be enough to stop the effort.
Eliminating the recorder’s office has the support of Mayor Francis Slay; Nancy Rice, executive director of Better Together St. Louis; and police union spokesman Jeff Roorda.
Neither Slay nor Rice commented on the body camera component of the plan. Roorda has called body cameras a “pet project” and said the money would be better spent on raising officer salaries.
Police Chief Sam Dotson says he’s in favor of body cameras. He put the cost of launching a program at $1.2 million, with $1 million or more in yearly upkeep costs.
Critics of the Nasheed-Sinquefield plan have called it a long shot and questioned whether consolidation could actually save $1 million of the recorder’s $2.8 million budget.
Others believe it’s a veiled attempt by Sinquefield to prove the city can do without the earnings tax, if only city leaders would run government more efficiently.
Nasheed has dismissed much of the criticism.
She said many of the employees in the recorder’s office would have opportunities to apply for other positions within city government that offer the same salary and benefits.
She has said that she is willing to fight for police officer raises but that body cameras are more of an immediate need.
“The point is that we need to improve police and community relations,” she said. “I’ve been blocked from doing this so many times, but I will not give up.”