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Editorial: Kimberly Gardner appears to have trouble obeying laws she's sworn to uphold

Editorial: Kimberly Gardner appears to have trouble obeying laws she's sworn to uphold

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Pride is Canceled march in St. Louis

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner, in a tight race for reelection, marches in the Pride is Canceled march from the Grove neighborhood in St. Louis on June 5.

A week before St. Louis Democratic primary voters decide Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner’s fate, Missouri Ethics Commission documents indicate she has failed to meet the terms of probation imposed after the commission cited her in 2019 for significant campaign-finance violations. Gardner had ample warning of the tight scrutiny she was likely to face given her history of infractions, yet she has handed voters another big reason not to trust her with another four-year term.

Bad judgment has been a hallmark of Gardner’s tenure, as this latest incident underscores. Instead of delegating, she has decided to serve as her own campaign treasurer, a time-consuming job that could only add massively to Gardner’s workload as she seeks reelection while juggling her full-time job as the city’s chief prosecutor. A campaign treasurer’s chief job is to make certain that the campaign abides by the letter of state campaign-finance law — clearly not Gardner’s strong suit.

In the latest case, the murky Missouri Justice & Public Safety political-action committee reported that, on June 11, it donated $77,803.56 to Citizens to Elect Kimberly Gardner. The report referenced research and polling services conducted on the campaign’s behalf, which must be reported as in-kind financial support. Under state law, Gardner had 48 hours to report any contribution exceeding $5,000, but she apparently waited more than a month to account for the donation.

As a lawyer, Gardner is supposed to know the law — especially so because reporting infractions were what landed her in trouble in January 2019 when her campaign failed to properly report more than $300,000 in donations. The Ethics Commission imposed a fine of $63,009 but waived all but 10% of it provided Gardner didn’t commit future infractions. She is still in a two-year probationary period, meaning the commission could now demand full payment plus additional penalties.

Little information is available about who financed the donated services of the Missouri Justice & Public Safety PAC, and Gardner’s acceptance of it suggests an utter disregard of the principles of full transparency behind the Clean Missouri campaign reform amendment passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2018.

Gardner’s bad judgment deserves to be top on voters’ minds heading into the Aug. 4 primary. Her botched attempt to prosecute former Gov. Eric Greitens led to a lawsuit that prompted Gardner to hire an expensive outside team of lawyers. She then tried to sock taxpayers with at least a $115,000 bill for her personal mistakes. She’s now involved in more litigation regarding the dubious prosecution of a wealthy couple who waved their firearms at protesters outside their Central West End house last month.

In these cost-conscious times, St. Louisans literally cannot afford another four years of Kim Gardner as circuit attorney, especially if she can’t abide by the laws she’s sworn to uphold.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This editorial has been updated to correct the known total of legal fees billed to taxpayers for Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s failed prosecution of former Gov. Eric Greitens. 

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