Selection of Baer as Metro head ‘big slap’ in the face of taxpayers

The appointment of Robert J. Baer as president of the Metro transit agency is a big slap in the face to the taxpayers of St. Louis and St. Louis County. In many ways, Baer will be about as bad as Larry Salci, the person he is replacing.

Both of them are abrasive and arrogant, have no interest in listening to the public, do not like to be questioned on anything and seem to have the same belief in open government as the KGB.

Bob Baer was chairman of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District a few years ago and was a complete disaster. Tens of millions of dollars were wasted on no-bid consulting contracts while sewer problems were ignored, the cost of the new treatment plant in Oakville spiraled out of control and sewer rates took a big jump — without voter approval.

But Baer was successful at taking care of the companies for which he is associated or firms he was friendly with. When he and the new board took over, the underwriting team for a proposed bond issue was in place. However, it was rearranged to give favored companies a bigger cut of business.

One of the companies getting a much bigger share was Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. Baer is on the board of Stifel’s parent company, Stifel Financial, and owns 21,317 shares in the company, according to its most recent proxy statement. The shares are worth a little more than $1 million.

Stifel Nicolaus also does bond underwriting for Metro. Metro board member Hugh Scott III is vice president and managing director of investment banking at Stifel. Metro does not get voter approval of its bond issues and bond underwriting firms are not selected on a bid basis. Politics plays a big role.

Both Baer and Scott were appointed to their Metro positions on the recommendation of County Executive Charlie Dooley.

It should also be mentioned that Bob Baer and John Temporiti are good friends. Baer hired Temporiti when Baer was president of UniGroup Inc., the holding company for United Van Lines. Temporiti is close to County Executive Charlie Dooley and once worked for the county. Some said his real job was working on Dooley’s campaigns.

Temporiti resigned from the county after Dooley’s 2006 re-election campaign. He became chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party in February 2007 and also went back to his old law firm. He is now promoting the county’s trash program, as one of the area’s biggest trash haulers is a client.

Charlie Dooley wants Metro to regain public trust. It doesn’t look that that will be happening any time soon.

Tom Sullivan

St. Louis