Expired terms become county executive campaign issue


The County Council, pictured above, listens to public comments at the council meeting July 24. Photo by Jessica Belle Kramer.

County Executive Steve Stenger is running for re-election in the Democratic primary Aug. 7 against Ladue businessman Mark Mantovani, who accuses Stenger of corruption and lording over county business. One of the ways Stenger has done that, Mantovani alleges, is by keeping appointees serving on expired terms so that if they do something Stenger doesn’t agree with, he can easily cast them aside.

“You want them on expired terms — if they disagree with you, you can fire them,” Mantovani said. “People want to help — on urban issues, land use, construction, planning — and for us not to be putting up the best people is madness.”

Of the 588 county board positions, 271 seats are expired, 109 are up to date and 102 are vacant, according to data compiled by Mantovani’s campaign.

That’s probably “as small an amount as it’s ever been,” Stenger contends, and he’s not aware of any boards without a quorum.

“The county’s business is all being done, and it’s being done in fine fashion,” Stenger said. “So to suggest otherwise is just nonsense.”

He suggests the opposite is happening: He wants to fill those positions, but the council has “repeatedly — repeatedly — sat on appointments.” The chairman traditionally accepts documents on appointees and shares with the council, but Chairman Sam Page, D-Creve Coeur, “rejected them outright” without presenting them to other council members, Stenger said.

At least one appointment, that of south county attorney Edward Fitzhenry to the Public Transportation Commission, sat on the council’s agenda for a year before the council finally dropped it. Rather than move to approve or reject the appointment, the council held it every single week.

“We actually received a communication from the chairman of the St. Louis County Council, one that I’ve never seen in all my years, that said, ‘Don’t send any more appointments down because we’re not going to move them for you,’” Stenger said. “So if Mr. Mantovani wants to see appointments, then he would need to talk to his allies on the council about moving those appointments forward. I’d appreciate it, that’d be great.”