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St. Louis Comptroller Green rebuffed in bid to win back control of city finance board

St. Louis Comptroller Green rebuffed in bid to win back control of city finance board

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St. Louis Municipal Finance Corp.

The board of the St. Louis Municipal Finance Corp. meets on July 6, 2021. (Screengrab). 

ST. LOUIS — Comptroller Darlene Green’s attempt to reassert control over a city entity closely tied to her office failed on a split vote Tuesday.

The vote means Tom Shepard, a top aide to Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, keeps his position as president of the board of the St. Louis Municipal Finance Corp.

The finance board, an entity formed in 1991, issues bonds to finance large capital projects such as courthouse improvements and the downtown jail. For years, it was led by a board president from Green’s office.

That changed in 2019, after a flap between Green and former Mayor Lyda Krewson’s administration over which city entity would control a $105 million bond issue for the expansion of the downtown America’s Center convention complex. Krewson’s administration wanted to look at using a development board, arguing it could save on legal and administrative fees.

Around the time that spat became public, Krewson and Reed’s office outmaneuvered Green to vote in Shepard, Reed’s chief of staff, as the president of the finance board.

With a new administration in the mayor’s office, Comptroller Green sought to win back the president’s position even though Shepard’s three-year term wasn’t yet up.

During Tuesday’s annual meeting of the five-member board, Green’s designee, Deputy Comptroller LaTaunia Kenner, made a motion to remove Shepard as president.

In 2019 the “position was taken away from Comptroller Green and the comptroller’s office,” Kenner said. “In my opinion, this is only my opinion, it was due to politics.”

Kenner said all the back office functions of the Municipal Finance Corp. have remained in the comptroller’s office and when bond documents and other legal papers need to be signed, it takes time to get the signature of the president if he is not within the comptroller’s office.

“Numerous times it would have functioned smoothly or more efficiently if the position had remained in the comptroller’s office,” she said.

Her motion was seconded by a new member of the board, Mayor Tishaura O. Jones’ director of operations, Nancy Cross.

“This is kind of a surprise,” Shepard said.

But St. Louis Budget Director Paul Payne, who answers to all three of the city’s top elected officials, was hesitant to vote out a president. He sided with Green’s office in the vote two years ago, but said now he didn’t want to “get into the practice” of removing officers before their terms are up.

“That makes a little more drama than we need,” he said.

Payne was joined by Shepard and Mike Garvin, a board member representing the city counselor’s office who was on the board two years ago, in opposing Kenner’s motion.

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