Charter amendment is still up in the air

By Gloria Lloyd
News Editor

Voters approved an amendment to the St. Louis County Charter last week that defines employment, but an amendment that would give the County Council its own attorney is still too close to call.

Current results list the “no” votes for Proposition 2 winning by three votes. Proposition 3 passed with 54 percent.

Proposition 2 would give the County Council the power to hire its own staff attorney to counter the legal advice of the county counselor as well as hire private outside attorneys. But the vote total will likely change based on roughly 400 military and provisional ballots that have not yet been added into the total, Democratic Elections Director Eric Fey said. Those results will take all this week to hand-tabulate and will not be posted until the county Board of Election Commissioners certifies the election results Tuesday, Aug. 21.

The County Council pleaded with voters to pass Proposition 2 and Proposition 3 to bring more transparency and accountability to the county by serving as a way to check County Executive Steve Stenger’s power. Prop 3 changes the Charter’s definition of “employment” to exclude work as an independent contractor.

But Stenger says they provide a blank check for lawyers and allow for conflicts of interest with council members like Councilman Ernie Trakas. The reform slate running in the county, including Stenger challenger Mark Mantovani for county executive, Wesley Bell for county prosecutor and Lisa Clancy for 5th District councilwoman, all strongly urged their voters to approve the amendments and touted them as a way to balance power between the legislative and executive branches.

The county Charter grants the county executive broad power over budgets, which the council believed granted Stenger an upper hand in their constant battles over various issues.

The majority of the council is currently suing Stenger’s office about a few of those disputes, with a court date set for Sept. 15.

In a text message, council Chairman Sam Page, D-Creve Coeur, said the council will still fight for its Charter amendments, depending on the final will of the voters.

“We will continue to defend our Charter amendments in circuit court,” Page said.