CLAYTON — A high-ranking Black police officer passed over for St. Louis County police chief this spring has filed a complaint alleging racial discrimination, his lawyer said Friday.
But the St. Louis County counselor has accused the officer’s lawyer of trying to extort $3.5 million from the county by trying to resolve the case quietly so it would not become a problem for County Executive Sam Page in the Aug. 4 Democratic primary for county executive.
Lt. Col. Troy Doyle was one of eight candidates, and the only Black candidate, who applied to replace Chief Jon Belmar, who retired effective April 30. Doyle had been the choice of several community leaders in the county who wanted him to be the department’s first Black chief.
But after a series of closed-door interviews with each candidate, the Board of Police Commissioners on March 19 voted 5-0 to select Capt. Mary Barton, commander of the West County Precinct as the department’s first female police chief.
Doyle was detached from the department for most of 2019 to help reform the county jail after a series of inmate deaths. On June 29, Page announced that Doyle would be the department’s liaison to consultants who would review the police department’s practices.
A week later, on July 6, attorney Jerome Dobson sent a voice message to Page’s chief of staff, Winston Calvert, telling him that he intended to file the complaint before the Aug. 4 Democratic primary for county executive but wanted the county to have an opportunity to resolve the case. Page’s office shared a copy of the voicemail with the Post-Dispatch.
Dobson said he wanted a meeting soon: “I realize we’re operating within a fairly tight time frame as to when the primary is taking place.”
In a letter to Dobson on Wednesday, County Counselor Beth Orwick wrote: “Recently, I attended a meeting organized by you in which you threatened to file and make public a charge of discrimination. You threatened to file the charge with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and EEOC (hereafter, together, the ‘MCHR’) if St. Louis County did not pay you and your client, Lt. Col. Troy Doyle, $3.5 million prior to the upcoming primary election. Please understand that St. Louis County will not be effectively extorted into paying money in exchange for your agreement not to disrupt the upcoming election.”
She added: “Specifically, at our meeting, you demanded $3.5 million from St. Louis County to prevent you from filing and making public the MCHR charge of discrimination before the upcoming election and you demanded that the money be paid within 16 days. You offered that if the County paid you and your client $3.5 million, you would hide the documents ‘in your desk drawer,’ and that ‘nobody would know’ about the complaint.”
Dobson called the claims of extortion “nonsense,” and said his reaching out to the county was an invitation to settle before going public with the accusations, not a case of extortion.
“I think it’s very telling when we’re accusing the county of discriminating against Doyle because of his race, the only response they make is to attack his lawyer,” Dobson said Friday night. “They make no effort to rebut these allegations.”
A report by KSDK-TV (Channel 5) said Dobson summarized the complaint for a reporter, but did not share a copy.
In the complaint, Dobson told KSDK, Doyle alleged Page had him interview with two police board members in late 2019 before Page nominated them to the board. Doyle said Page told him several times that he was Page’s pick for chief but that some “powerful people with a lot of money” said they did not want Doyle to become chief because he is Black.
Page told Doyle that he was getting resistance from the St. Louis Police Foundation about his being selected as chief because he is Black, and Page told Doyle he was having trouble raising funds from big corporate donors.
Doug Albrecht, chairman of the St. Louis Police Foundation, countered Friday that the foundation did not push back on picking Doyle as chief.
“The mission of the St. Louis Police Foundation is to support the rank and file of both the St. Louis County and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Departments with equipment, services and other resources that they request,” Albrecht said in a statement. “As a 12-year-old organization, we have not and never will get involved in hiring and personnel issues.”
While Page has said he doesn’t control the police board, Doyle said Page told him that it “does what I tell them to do,” Dobson told KSDK.
Page said in a statement: “Troy Doyle was my choice for chief. The commissioners, whose independence is why I nominated them, chose someone else.”
Shortly after the KSDK story was posted online, Mark Mantovani, one of three candidates challenging Page in the Democratic primary, released a 350-word statement saying he “was saddened to learn of the allegations of discrimination” leveled by Doyle, adding, “if there was discriminatory conduct, it must be condemned.”
County Assessor Jake Zimmerman, another candidate, said via Twitter: “Today’s allegations by Col. Doyle are incredibly disturbing. The people of St. Louis County deserve answers and accountability. As for Sam Page, he needs to stop trying to tell everyone what he thinks they want to hear. What we need is the truth.”
Taylor Tiamoyo Harris of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.