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Des Peres town hall

Jennifer Bird, of Crestwood (left), and Gary Weigert, of St. Louis (center), campaign against Better Together's plan to merge St. Louis, St. Louis County and all 88 county municipalities on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in Des Peres. The group held signs and spoke with people attending a town hall Better Together hosted at the Des Peres Lodge event center Wednesday. (Photo by Nassim Benchaabane)

An attorney has filed state elections complaints against officials of two St. Louis County municipalities, alleging each spent city money campaigning against the advocacy group Better Together’s petition to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County.

Jefferson City attorney Chuck Hatfield complained that Des Peres Mayor Mark Becker, and the city administrator of Shrewsbury, Jonathan Greever, as well as their boards of aldermen opposed the merger in official publications.

Hatfield said in his complaint that Becker wrote a mayoral column in the municipality’s quarterly newsletter this winter, sent by the city to residents. In it, Becker said Better Together should not be decided by a statewide vote. Hatfield also said the Des Peres Board of Aldermen passed a resolution last month “which expresses unvarnished opposition to Better Together.”

In Shrewsbury, Greever wrote a memorandum opposing the measure, and, on the same day, sent an opposing resolution to aldermen.

The actions, Hatfield said, violate the state’s “prohibition on the use of public funds to oppose a ballot measure.”

Hatfield, a lawyer at Stinson Leonard Street in Jefferson City, sent letters last month to all 88 county municipalities demanding they account for any use of public dollars against Better Together’s petition.

Hatfield wouldn’t say who was paying him. Better Together denied involvement.

Becker responded to Hatfield’s letter to Des Peres late last week. He said Hatfield’s “unsubtle efforts to intimidate me” will not prevent him communicating with his residents, and invited Hatfield to keep reading the newsletter.

“I expect you will find much more to hold your interest in future editions,” he said, “as I continue to keep my neighbors fully informed.”

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David Hunn is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.