ST. LOUIS • The owners of a treatment facility claim in a lawsuit against Franklin County and others that some participants in drug court there were forced to work as informers for police, causing them to fail drug tests and the program.
The suit alleges that their company, Meramec Recovery Center Inc., lost its contract after they complained.
Sheriff’s Lt. Jason Grellner, named as a defendant, told a reporter the claim was untrue and was just a “political hack” aimed at blocking his political campaign. Grellner lost his bid to be nominated in the Aug. 2 primary as a Republican for sheriff.
Grellner said a draft of the suit was circulated to local media the weekend before the election. It was filed Aug. 1 in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.
The plaintiffs, Kenneth L. Allen Jr. and Jan Allen, also named as defendants a former prosecutor; the new treatment provider, Bridgeway Behavioral Health Foundation; one of its officials; Director George Lombardi of the Missouri Department of Corrections; and a state probation officer.
Grellner questioned why he was named but not the Office of State Courts Administrator, which had signed the treatment agreement with Meramec — and cut it short.
A relatively high-profile drug-fighter in the St. Louis region, Grellner said the allegation of using drug court participants as sources is “100 percent incorrect.”
The suit says that Meramec became the drug treatment provider to Franklin County’s drug court in 2000.
It says that at some point in 2013 or before, Grellner began using participants in criminal investigations by threatening to get them kicked out of the program if they didn’t cooperate. It also says Grellner was motivated by a desire to rid the county of drug crime and get elected sheriff.
Use of participants as informers forced them to associate with drug users and drug dealers, making success in the program more difficult, the suit says.
It also claims Grellner used participants as campaign aides.
The suit says that after Ken Allen noticed that participants were failing drug tests and missing counseling sessions and drug court dates, he confronted Grellner.
Grellner and then Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Bartlett met with OSCA to persuade the court system to terminate Meramec, and spread false rumors, the suit says.
OSCA did end the agreement with Meramec nine months early, effective in September 2013. The suit does not say if the Allens were given a reason.
Bartlett did not return a message seeking comment.
A spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections declined to comment. So did Associate Circuit Judge Stanley W. Williams, who presides over the drug court, and treatment court administrator Beth Billington.
The Allens’ lawyer also did not respond to messages.