St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green followed court orders Tuesday and turned over her signed copy of a $64 million stadium financing agreement, ending a contentious 24 hours in which Blues owners accused her of being in contempt of court.
The Blues filed a motion in St. Louis Circuit Court Tuesday morning saying Green violated Judge Joan Moriarty’s order from Nov. 27 to sign the agreement. On Monday, Green announced she had signed the agreement per the order, but was withholding it until she had time to appeal.
Late Tuesday afternoon, after a last-minute hearing in front of Moriarty that ended without a ruling, Green’s spokesman Tyson Pruitt said she had delivered the signed document.
“The Comptroller does not comply with this finance agreement voluntarily,” Pruitt said in an email. “As she has stated, this financing agreement is not in the best interest of city taxpayers; it draws upon the city’s general fund for repayment and may harm the city’s credit.”
A Blues spokesman said attorneys withdrew the contempt of court motion against Green after receiving the documents Tuesday.
As written, Moriarty’s order didn’t explicitly say Green had to distribute a signed copy of the document, only that Green had to sign it within five days, a deadline that passed Monday. But the Blues said it amounted to not signing the agreement if Green’s actions continue to prevent it from going into effect.
The Blues had requested Green be fined $1,000 for every day she refused to hand over the financing agreement, but that issue has been resolved without any fines assessed.
A brief hearing on the motion was held Tuesday in St. Louis Circuit Court, as well as discussion of a motion by Green’s attorney, Elkin Kistner, asking Moriarty to change her order because it was “fatally injected with legal error.” Moriarty did not immediately issue a ruling.
In her order filed Nov. 27, Moriarty said nothing in the city charter gives the comptroller “the discretion to refuse to countersign the financing agreement based on her belief that the expenditure is imprudent.” Green’s attorneys read it differently, arguing language charging Green with protecting the city’s credit applies in this instance.
Kistner told the judge the signed financing agreement was locked in the desk of a deputy comptroller. Kistner said case law led him to advise Green not to voluntarily turn over the signed document, because such “voluntary” actions could affect her right to appeal.
Kistner said he discovered this “legal conundrum” Sunday and informed the Blues attorneys of his intentions then.
“So we are, candidly, taking up the court’s time on short notice because of this concern,” Kistner said.
The question remains whether Green’s signature effectively enacts or executes the details of the agreement, which include securing bonds to pay for the project. Blues attorney JoAnn Sandifer said the plaintiffs would not yet weigh in on that question.
The Board of Aldermen narrowly approved the agreement in February, but Green refused to sign the document because she said it would hurt the city’s credit rating. The Blues owners, Kiel Center Partners, filed suit in August, alleging that Green was required by law to sign it.
A separate lawsuit over public financing of Scottrade Center renovations is scheduled for trial Monday next week. The lawsuit by 20th Ward Alderman Cara Spencer and two other city residents alleges the agreement is an unconstitutional giveaway of public funds for private benefit, while the Blues argue such public-private partnerships are legally acceptable for economic development.