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St. Louis County Council ethics committee launches inquiry into Page anesthesiology side job

St. Louis County Council ethics committee launches inquiry into Page anesthesiology side job

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St. Louis County Council Ethics Committee on Tuesday, May 4th, 2021.

The St. Louis County Council Ethics Committee on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Top row: Councilman Mark Harder, Clerk Diann Valenti and Budget Policy Director Chris Grahn-Howard. Middle row: Councilman Ernie Trakas, Associate County Counselor Genevieve Frank, and Council Chair Rita Heard Days. Bottom row: Councilwoman Shalonda Webb and Councilman Tim Fitch.

CLAYTON — A four-member St. Louis County Council committee on Tuesday voted to formally investigate whether St. Louis County Executive Sam Page violated the county charter by working part time as an anesthesiologist.

The ethics committee, chaired by Councilman Mark Harder, R-7th District, voted unanimously to demand Page provide a detailed schedule of his side job as an anesthesiologist. The panel, in its first meeting of the year, also called on Page to detail any compensation he received for the work since the council appointed him to replace former county executive Steve Stenger on April 29, 2019.

Other members of the committee are Councilman Tim Fitch, R-3rd District, Council Chair Rita Heard Days, D-1st District, and Councilwoman Shalonda Webb, D-4th District.

Page, who won election in November to complete Stenger’s term, is a member of Western Anesthesiology Associates, which practices at Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur.

After television news reports on Oct. 21 revealed Page was working part-time as an anesthesiologist at Mercy, Harder and Fitch accused Page of violating the county charter for the work, citing a provision that “the county executive’s entire time shall be devoted to the duties of the office.”

A day before the Nov. 3 election, Harder and Fitch called for the county counselor’s office to investigate the allegations, introducing a nonbinding resolution before holding it on the council agenda, where it has remained since.

Harder, Fitch, Days and Webb comprise a council majority that has been sharply critical of the Page administration. After the group elected Days as chair in January, she named the coalition to the council’s powerful ethics committee, which is tasked with oversight of conflicts of interest among county personnel.

Page has said the part-time work did not constitute a charter violation because he was working “two to three shifts per month” during his private time on weekends, but his office has not released more detailed information about his schedule or compensation. As executive, Page receives a $140,000 annual salary.

Page spokesman Doug Moore said Tuesday that the ethics committee inquiry was “political theater.” Asked whether the office would respond to the committee’s requests, Moore said Page would review the requests once received by his office.

Personal financial disclosure forms Page filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission listed his work as an anesthesiologist in 2019 and 2020, but did not provide more details about the scope of the work or how much compensation he received, according to copies obtained by the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday through a records request.

The disclosures, required of political candidates and certain elected officials, require filers to list the names and addresses of any employers from whom they received more than $1,000 in compensation but don’t require more details.

The ethics committee also voted Tuesday to demand information from county budgeting officials about whether any of the $173 million the county received last year under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act went to Mercy Health or Western Anesthesiology Associates. The Democratic majority on the council voted in April 2020 to give the Page administration authority to spend all $173 million without council approval of line items.

Harder said he wants to investigate “what influence (Page) would have had over the money that Mercy or Western Anesthesiologists would have received,” if any.

The committee meeting came after it received a letter signed by 16 county residents asking for the inquiry into Page’s anesthesiology work. Harder also referred to an online petition requesting the investigation that had been signed by at least 470 people.

Zoo rezoning request

In other action Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to approve a request from the St. Louis Zoo Association to rezone its 425-acre campus in the unincorporated area of Spanish Lake in north St. Louis County for a planned park attraction and conservation center. The St. Louis County Planning Commission reviewed the request in February and recommended the change to the council.

The association bought the property, near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, at 12385 Larimore Road, in September 2018 from the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562. The $7.1 million purchase was funded by donors, and in November 2018, voters approved a sales tax to fund repairs at the zoo and to transform the north campus.

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Reporter covering breaking news and crime by night. Born in Algeria but grew up in St. Louis. Previously reported for The Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi and at the Wichita Eagle in Wichita, Kansas.

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