Updated at 8 p.m. with reactions from Trakas and Lohmar
CLAYTON • St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas did not violate the county charter by performing contract legal work for outstate school districts, and does not have to vacate his seat, a judge ruled on Tuesday.
St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar, working as a special prosecutor in the case, had asked the courts in April to remove Trakas from office, determining that the councilman violated the charter by performing contract legal work for three outstate school districts.
Lohmar said Trakas’ part-time work for the Jefferson City, Cape Girardeau and Sikeston districts ran counter to a charter provision barring council members from holding any other governmental employment.
“Legal representation and services rendered to a public school district is ‘employment’ within the meaning of” the charter provision, Lohmar wrote in an April filing with the St. Louis County Circuit Court.
But in a nine-page ruling issued on Tuesday, St. Charles County Circuit Judge Dan Pelikan disagreed.
“Trakas operates his own law practice; he is not fully employed by any public school district,” Pelikan wrote. “When he has taken cases from a public school district, he has done so on his terms of representation. He can reject any potential client from any public school district that seeks him out. His legal work takes place in his office, not at the place of business of the public school districts. Trakas is completely free of any control over his performance of his legal work by the public school district.”
Trakas has maintained that the provision didn’t apply to his contract work because he wasn’t an employee of the school districts.
St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, an ally of County Executive Steve Stenger, had asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed to look into Trakas’ employment issue. Trakas has blamed Stenger for the action, but the county executive has said that he had nothing to do with McCulloch’s action against Trakas and that McCulloch didn’t take direction from him.
McCulloch, a Democrat, had asked in December for a special prosecutor to be appointed after a report on KMOV-TV (Channel 4) about Trakas’ legal work.
Trakas said Tuesday night: “I’m glad it’s over with. ... No elected official, regardless of position, is going to be able to file frivolous matters to intimidate or chill a representative of this body from doing the people’s work.”
Lohmar, a Republican, was appointed to investigate the matter by St. Louis County Circuit Judge Douglas Beach after McCulloch said he couldn’t do so because it could be seen as a conflict. Lohmar said Tuesday night in a text message that he has “no plans to appeal.”
The case was heard in St. Charles County Court after Lohmar asked that St. Louis County judges disqualify themselves from ruling on the issue and that the case be reassigned to a judge in another county.
Trakas, a lawyer in private practice, was first elected to the council in 2016 to represent the 6th District, which covers about 150,000 residents in the Oakville, Mehlville, Affton and Lemay areas.