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St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger indicted

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger walks out of the federal courthouse in St. Louis on Monday, April 29, 2019 where he was charged with bribery, mail fraud and theft of honest service. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

CLAYTON — The St. Louis County Council voted 5-0 Tuesday to pass an ordinance preventing any elected official from collecting a county pension if he is convicted of a felony committed while serving in his official role.

Council member Tim Fitch, R-3rd District, who introduced the ordinance, said the council believes it affects former County Executive Steve Stenger because the ordinance would take effect before his sentencing Friday in a federal pay-to-pay case.

Fitch prefaced the vote by reading into the record Stenger’s expletive-laced comments captured by a wire in the federal investigation, in which he bragged about winning reelection in November without doing anything but sitting at home and raising money for his campaign.

“I believe this is an individual who does not deserve to have his pension,” Fitch said.

Stenger would have started receiving $1,660 a month on March 1, 2032, after his 60th birthday. That would have increased to $1,963 a month on March 1, 2037, after he turns 65.

“This will send a message to anyone in the future who may consider committing the number of felonies that he did to not do that or their pension would be at risk,” Fitch said.

Turning the page

Stenger habitually skipped County Council meetings and bragged about it. And on Friday, his successor will skip his sentencing.

County Executive Sam Page, appointed after Stenger’s resignation April 29, told the council he did not plan to attend the proceeding, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.

“You all have elected me to lead this county into the future,” he told the council. “And I understand that means understanding the past. But it also requires me not to dwell on it. So, while Steve Stenger’s being judged in court, I’ll will be in Ferguson participating in a conversation about St. Louis County’s future.”

Metro bonds stall

For the second straight week, the council tabled legislation that would allow the county to sign off on a major bond issue refinancing for Bi-State Development to provide some $20 million for new public safety measures on MetroLink.

Final passage of the legislation remains at least two weeks away. The council’s presiding officer, Ernie Trakas, R-6th District, said he needed more time to consider Metro’s budget request from the county for its 2020 budget. The county contributes the largest share to Bi-State from any government, about $150 million.

Taulby Roach, CEO and president of Bi-State, told a reporter after the meeting that the agency still had time to let the council consider but that it was getting “a little close.”

Marijuana zoning on hold

The county’s unincorporated areas do not have a zoning code in place as the state’s new medical marijuana licensing process begins this month. Some council members have asked for 1,000-foot buffer zones between dispensaries and schools, daycare centers and churches.

The planning commission voted in July to recommend a 300-foot buffer be required, same as a retail pharmacy. It later expanded that to 500 feet. But Fitch has said it’s important to have larger buffers in place because of the likelihood that Missouri will ultimately legalize full recreational use of the drug.

The council’s public improvement committee voted 3-0 Tuesday to send it back to the planning commission, asking for a 1,000-foot buffer.

Town hall on Thursday

Councilwoman Lisa Clancy, D-5th District, and Page are hosting a town hall Thursday in Richmond Heights. It is scheduled for The Heights, 8001 Dale Avenue, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Clancy said the topics would include recent council actions, restoring trust in county government, affordable housing opportunities and racial equity.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger pleaded guilty to pay-for-play charges: Some background reading

Here's a collection of Post-Dispatch stories looking at some of the controversies surrounding the St. Louis County Executive.

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