No surprise: Jeff Wagener leaves St. Louis County Charter Commission

The 2019 St. Louis County Charter Commission convenes for its first meeting Feb. 21, with Chairman Gene McNary, a former county executive, shown in the middle and Jeff Wagener, a former County Councilman, shown to his left. Photo by Erin Achenbach.

By Erin Achenbach
Staff Reporter
eachenbach@callnewspapers.com

The St. Louis County Charter Commission is still gathering for weekly meetings to discuss changing St. Louis County government, but with one fewer member.

Chairman Gene McNary,  former county executive, announced with a chuckle at the May 1 meeting that former 6th District Councilman Jeff Wagener, D-Oakville, had resigned from the commission. Wagener was appointed by former County Executive Steve Stenger, who pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges May 3.

Wagener, a top policy advisor for Stenger who resigned April 30 from his position in county government at the request of new County Executive Sam Page, was also prominently named in a federal indictment handed down April 25 that alleged Stenger, some of his advisors and some of his campaign donors had engaged in “pay-to-play” activities, rewarding county contracts to those who had donated to Stenger’s campaign. The indictment was unsealed April 29, and Stenger resigned almost immediately.

It is not known who will take over Wagener’s role, and he had not been replaced as of the council’s May 15 meeting.

Wagener is the third member of the 14-member commission to resign since the panel held its first meeting in February. Wagener had attended a majority of the commission meetings before his resignation.  Two days after the commission first met Feb. 21, commission member Ron Watermon resigned because he had written the 20-page executive summary for Better Together, the group working to merge St. Louis city and St. Louis County through a statewide vote, but hadn’t mentioned that when Better Together came up at the Charter Commission’s first meeting.

Another Stenger appointee, Hazelwood Mayor Matt Robinson, stepped down from the position in April after the panel decided to meet weekly because Robinson said he would have to miss too much work.

Andrea Jackson-Jennings, St. Louis County Human Services director, took the place of Watermon at the direction of Stenger. And in one of Stenger’s last acts as county executive, Normandy Mayor Patrick Green took over the vacant seat left by Robinson.

The commission, which voters decide whether to convene every 10 years, can decide to create a new Charter altogether or make no changes at all. It has been meeting weekly since March 28, both as a whole committee and in small groups dedicated to reviewing different parts of the Charter, such as budget issues, local governance issues and governance issues.

No small group has put forward any recommendations so far, but the committee plans to continue looking into possible changes to the Charter, as well as hear from various county department heads and possibly even St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann.

The commission has until Dec. 31 to conduct their work, but they can finish sooner. From there, county voters would have to approve any proposed amendments or a new Charter in either a special or general election held on a day determined by the commission.