The legislation was cited as specifically referring to city-county unification or a proposed merger. A previous resolution against those actions was passed by the city of Chesterfield in January 2017.
The resolution passed on Sept. 20 states a desire to keep the issue of a merger or unification vote limited to the residents of St. Louis City and County, the current protocol under the Missouri Constitution. According to Mayor Bob Nation, the resolution serves mainly as a precaution against a statewide vote.
Also on Sept. 18, the city considered the assignment of proceeds from a recent Ameren Missouri class action settlement for possible lobbying and a public relations campaign against the merger to be conducted by the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis. The Muny League represented the city in the class action lawsuit and typically receives 5 percent in settlement funds back from participating cities for its litigation fund. In this instance, 5 percent would equal about $12,000; however, Chesterfield negotiated an amount of $7,500 for the PR campaign and lobbying efforts.
The council initially tied on the vote, with some members questioning specifically how the money would be spent.
“They have identified that the proposed, but not restrained, purpose of those funds would be to begin a PR campaign against a statewide vote for addressing the city-county issue,” Councilmember Randy Logan [Ward 3] said.
But Councilmember Barbara McGuinness [Ward 1] asked,”How can we be assured that whatever we decide to give, whether it be zero or whatever, will be spent on the stated purpose?” ”
“If this money goes into the litigation find, we lose control,” she said.
Other councilmembers questioned using the Muny League at all and suggested waiting until the finalized settlement fund was officially transferred to the city before making a final contribution decision.
“If it’s really something we want [the money] to go toward and something we care about, we are completely capable of going and doing that ourselves …,” Councilmember Ben Keathley [Ward 2] said. “We don’t need a third party to spend our money for us.”
Councilmembers in favor of the allocation stated that the funds would go further in benefiting the efforts of a larger entity with money and representation from multiple municipalities.
“We would probably reach more of the legislators than we could reach with either $10,000 or $12,000 on our own,” Councilmember Barry Flachsbart [Ward 1] said. “That’s why I would say that keeping with others is much wiser than trying to go it alone.”
Mayor Bob Nation broke the tie, resulting in a 5-4 vote in favor of sending the money to the Muny League.
The city is scheduled to receive an estimated $237,000 settlement from the Ameren suit, according to City Administrator Mike Geisel. The final settlement amount will be allocated to the city later this year and a fairness hearing regarding the settlement will be held in December.