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St. Louis County Council approves charter amendments for Aug. 7 ballot

Voters hitting the polls on Aug. 7 will see two new proposed charter amendments on the ballot, which were created in response to increasing tensions with County Executive Steve Stenger, as West Newsmagazine has previously reported. 

One multifaceted amendment proposed by Councilmember Ernie Trakas [R-District 6] calls for accountability and transparency. Aspects include campaign finance contribution limits, disclosure of county funds available to the public online, and oversight of the county executive’s spending.

One mission of the amendment is to address “pay-to-play” concerns and put county officials under the same campaign contribution limits as state elected officials – $2,600 per election.

Candidates also would not be able to accept campaign contributions from anyone attempting to bid on a county contract.

“The charter amendment creates a blackout period for contributions designed to address pay-to-play concerns that have surfaced in recent times,” Trakas said.

That blackout period barring donations from those who have business before the county would begin 90 days before the solicitation for a bid began and end 90 days after the bid was awarded.

Another element of the amendment calls for a website that will make available to the public documents outlining St. Louis County’s financial data for maximum transparency. Those documents include debts, expenditures, pension fund balances and statements, among others.

“This is common practice in many entities across the country, but currently is not being utilized in St. Louis County,” Trakas noted.

The council voted 6-1 for the ballot proposal. Councilmember Pat Dolan [D-District 5] voted no. 

A second amendment, this one proposed by Councilmember Sam Page [D-District 2], allows the council to hire outside legal counsel under certain circumstances. The county council and the county executive currently share legal counsel – the county counselor, whom the county councilmembers claim is under the authority of Stenger. Amid growing disagreements and tension between members of the county council and Stenger, Page said it’s time for a change.

The council voted 6-1 on this amendment as well, with Dolan voting no. 

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