Stenger’s former Chief of Staff Bill Miller to plead guilty to federal corruption charges Friday

Pictured above: Then-County Executive Steve Stenger’s son Lincoln Stenger, 2, right, with Bill Miller during Stenger’s August 2018 watch party. Photo by Jessica Belle Kramer.

By Gloria Lloyd
News Editor
glorialloyd@callnewspapers.com

The dominoes are continuing to fall in former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s public corruption scandal.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern Missouri sent out a notice Thursday that Stenger’s former Chief of Staff Bill Miller will plead guilty in federal court at 10 a.m. Friday to the same charges Stenger pleaded guilty to May 3: wire fraud/honest services bribery. The advisory did not say how many counts Miller faces.

Stenger pleaded guilty to three federal corruption charges — bribery, theft of honest services and mail fraud — and admitted to pay-to-play allegations that he exchanged campaign donations for county contracts. The businessman who benefited from several of those deals, John Rallo, faces the same charges as Stenger and Miller, and former St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony for concealing Stenger’s crimes.

Stenger directed many of the contracts he wanted to award to donors through Sweeney, who led the joint city-county economic agency and the county Port Authority as its executive director.

Miller was close enough to Stenger that he held Stenger’s son Lincoln at the county executive’s victory party in August. Throughout 2018, Miller was also the “muscle” behind pressuring Sweeney to award those contracts, according to Stenger’s 44-page indictment.

Miller signed up to work for Stenger in December 2017 and was Stenger’s right-hand man along with Stenger’s Policy Director Jeff Wagener, who appears to have worn a wire to record private conversations with both Stenger and Miller.

The chief of staff announced he was resigning April 12, but said the move had been planned since 2018 and that he originally only planned to stay on through Stenger’s re-election before extending his time in the office.

Miller said at the time of his resignation, “I informed County Executive Stenger several months ago that I would be resigning as his chief of staff in order to pursue other employment opportunities. I’m grateful to have worked in this administration alongside so many dedicated public servants.”

In an application for a search warrant for Stenger’s iPhone, an FBI agent quoted a private conversation between Miller and Stenger at Stenger’s house last fall in which Miller said he would take care of what the FBI agent classified as a “bribe” of a County Council member. Stenger told Miller he would handle it himself.

In another conversation with Wagener quoted verbatim in Stenger’s indictment, Miller talks about going to Sweeney’s office and laying a “wrestling move” on her because she was apparently indicating that she wouldn’t cooperate with awarding a contract to a Stenger donor.

Miller’s online resume states that he has been a “chief operating officer responsible for executive staff and management of all aspects of St. Louis County government, including a county budget of $664 million with more than 4,000 employees.”

Before taking the position with Stenger in December 2017, Miller served as a state-appointed administrative law judge from January 2017 to June 2017 and acting policy director for former Gov. Jay Nixon from May 2015 to January 2017.

He was the owner of Missourian Publishing from 1996 to May 2015. He served on the board of the Missouri Press Association during that time.

An attorney, Miller went to law school at St. Louis University, just as Stenger did.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.