County executive rebuffs call for county counselor to resign

Dooley chastises Diehl for ‘some kind of cockamamie story’ about ‘right,’ ‘wrong’

By BURKE WASSON

County Executive Charlie Dooley chided 6th District County Councilman John Campisi and a handful of speakers at last week’s County Council meeting for their insistence that trash districts can’t be created in unincorporated areas without the approval of voters in each district.

Campisi’s call for County Counselor Pat Redington’s resignation for “ignoring” the County Charter by not advising the council that voters should decide whether to establish trash districts also was rebuffed by Dooley, who said he stands behind Redington’s actions.

The county executive defended Redington’s performance and told Campisi, R-south county, that if he has a problem with any county director, he needs to first address it with Dooley rather than publicly ask for that employee’s resignation.

“The county counselor is my pick for county counselor,” Dooley said. “Secondly, I have the utmost confidence in that individual. So when that individual’s speaking for this county, she’s speaking for me as the chief elected official of the county. And whatever she does has a hundred percent of my backing. If I didn’t have any confidence in her, she wouldn’t be here … That’s my responsibility. And I stand by it. With all of my directors, that’s my responsibility. So don’t fault her. It’s a policy decision. It’s my decision … If you have a problem with that, you need to address it with me. Please do not ask my directors for their resignation without addressing me first.”

Campisi has urged the county administration to repeal trash districts to put them to a vote in each district.

He cites Section 2.180.24 of the County Charter, which states that the council shall have the power to “provide for the creation of districts in the unincorporated areas of the county within which may be provided … garbage and refuse collection and disposal, and such kindred facilities as the voters therein by a majority of those voting thereon may approve, the same to be paid for from funds raised by special assessment, general taxation or service charge …”

Redington has contended that trash districts were created “under charter authority” outside of Section 2.180.24.

But attorney Lester Stuckmeyer last week told the council that Section 2.180.24 provides that the county shall conduct elections to establish each of the eight districts, which will be serviced by one hauler apiece.

“The citizens have placed their trust in their elected officials to follow these rules,” Stuckmeyer said. “Because they have now been broken, I encourage this council to restore that trust and veto the trash program and avoid the senseless litigation that’s already begun and the inevitable cost to the county in legal fees when the litigation is lost.”

Dooley replied that because Redington has more years of experience as an attorney than Stuckmeyer, he trusts her legal judgment more than that of Stuckmeyer.

“Sir, how long have you been an attorney?” Dooley said.

“Fourteen years,” Stuckmeyer said.

“Our attorney’s been an attorney for 25 years with the County Charter,” Dooley said. “I would suggest to you that she has much more wise counsel than you have.”

Dooley also criticized Oakville resident Tom Diehl, who told the council last week that it should “do what is right” by repealing trash districts and removing Redington.

“You can’t be expected to do all the research on each and every ordinance that comes before you,” Diehl said. “You do have someone that is supposed to give you the information that you need to make sure that everything you pass complies with the provisions of the St. Louis County Charter.

“But I do have the specific language right here in front of you, and it’s crystal clear … You have established a district with specific boundaries and you have also granted monopoly contracts to individual vendors that are assessing residents a mandatory service charge … Now is the time to show some courage and integrity and do what is right. The remedy is clear. Follow the law, repeal the illegal trash-district program and I would suggest showing Ms. Redington the door,” said Diehl, who also serves as president of the Mehlville Board of Education.

Dooley responded that trash districts will result in lower prices through competitive bidding and then chastised Diehl for his “cockamamie story” about “right” and “wrong.”

“I didn’t know you were an attorney and you can actually evaluate wording because we’ve got an attorney that does it very well,” Dooley told Diehl. “What you’re saying is it’s all right to charge people more for trash pickup when we can get a competitive bid …

“My second thought tonight is for you to just indicate that you have some kind of grasp of law is beyond me … that because you can read it, you have a grasp of the law.

“Apparently, not the County Charter. If you did, you would know better. And thirdly, on various occasions you have had the audacity to come before this council with some kind of cockamamie story about what you think is right and what we think is wrong … To indicate that anybody on this council would do something that would not be in the best interest of the citizens of this county is ridiculous.”

Campisi took issue with Dooley’s criticism of south county residents at last week’s meeting and reminded the council that it was his recent discovery of Section 2.180.24 as well as his suggestion for Redington to resign that spurred his constituents’ irritation.

“I don’t want anybody from the council lashing out at the people in south county,” Campisi said. “It’s because I actually kicked the hornets’ nest and I’m the one that’s getting everybody up here to talk about this … If the county counselor is saying that she’s going to stand behind her legislation, that’s great if she really thinks that. But if something does happen, I want to go on record saying that I think we are going down the wrong path. We should have taken this to a vote of the people.”

Fifth District Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University City, told Campisi that while she respects his investigation, she believes that it’s “a little bit late” as he voted with a unanimous council in December 2006 to approve trash districts.

“You voted for this,” Fraser said. “And yet now you’re saying this isn’t a good idea … I certainly agree that there have been many questions … But one can easily say that this is a little bit late.”

“If you can tell me verbatim what our Constitution for St. Louis County is, then I guess you have a leg to stand on,” Campisi told Fraser. “But you don’t. And I know you don’t. Second of all, I have that thrown in my face every time you guys have something to say is that I voted on it. Well, if you look at the tapes, I voted ‘no’ on it first because I was against it. But when (former 3rd District Councilman) Skip Mange leans to me and tells me I have everything in that legislation that I want, I have to go with my colleague. And I’m sorry, but that’s just the way I feel about it.”