Updated at 6:45 p.m. with comments by Douglass Petty
ST. LOUIS — A communications consultant for a city committee studying the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport says he has been fired amid a controversy over whether he called into a radio show using a pseudonym.
The consultant, Douglass Petty, said Wednesday he was asked to resign this week by Paul Payne, the Airport Working Group chairman, but had refused to do so because he didn’t do anything wrong.
Petty on Wednesday also denied that he had called into “St. Louis on the Air,” a show on KWMU (90.7 FM), on Aug. 22, using the name “Dominique” to defend the city’s process for deciding whether to lease the airport to a private company.
“It was suggested I had compromised my role of serving as spokesperson,” Petty said. “I can’t resign for something I had not done.”
Payne, the city budget director, earlier Wednesday had confirmed that Petty was no longer acting as a spokesperson for the working group.
He declined to comment on the circumstances of Petty’s departure because it is a personnel matter. He also wouldn't say whether it was related to the radio controversy. Payne said Petty also is no longer with the St. Louis Development Corp., the city’s economic development arm through which Petty was hired.
On the show, two KWMU staffers were talking with Alderman Cara Spencer, who has criticized the privatization study process.
City officials and representatives of consultants advising the working group had been invited to also take part in the show but they declined.
Spencer said Wednesday one of the KWMU staffers immediately recognized the voice of the person calling himself Dominique and believed it was Petty. Spencer said she also came to that conclusion.
Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger, in a column Sept. 1, said Petty wrote to him in an email that “Douglass Petty did not call.” When Messenger asked Petty if he denied it was his voice, he didn’t answer that question but wrote that he was not a participant on the broadcast.
KWMU reported that it arranged for a forensic radio analysis that concluded Dominique was “very likely” Petty. In response, Petty said Wednesday that “all our voices are subject to be mimicked at any point in time.”
KWMU said the analysis was by Rob Maher, a voice recognition expert and professor at Montana State University.
Like other consultants advising the working group, Petty was being paid by Grow Missouri.
Grow Missouri is a nonprofit group linked to retired investor Rex Sinquefield that also paid for the city’s application to a federal agency to consider a private Lambert operator.
The process of considering privatization was begun by former Mayor Francis Slay and continued by Mayor Lyda Krewson when she took office in 2017.
Krewson’s spokesman, Koran Addo, declined to comment on Petty’s job status but said “if true (using a pseudonym), the mayor believes it was very unprofessional.”
Petty, a former St. Louis Public Schools official, said Wednesday that his credibility had never been questioned previously. "If I was credible before I came, why would I sell my soul to become less than credible?" he asked.