In nearly 11 years as county executive, Charlie Dooley has never vetoed any legislation approved by the County Council — but there is a first time for everything.
Last week, Dooley promised to veto legislation the council adopted July 1 that mandates hiring goals for minorities and women in county contracts and overrides a similar executive order that Dooley, the first African-American county executive, issued June 18.
The measure was approved 5-1, with Chairwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, opposed. Erby is the only African-American on the council. A veto override would take five votes — a supermajority of the seven-member council, which is currently short a member due to the April death of 2nd District Councilwoman Kathleen Kelly Burkett, D-Overland.
“He certainly expects them to override the veto, so that’s not the point,” Dooley’s spokeswoman Pat Washington told the Call. “For him, it’s really a principled thing.”
The bill Dooley pledges to veto is sponsored by Fourth District Councilman Michael O’Mara, D-Florissant, and requires apprenticeships for companies bidding on county projects over $25,000 — a clause that helps unions but that Dooley said would instead keep out the minorities and women the legislation is intended to help.
“That’s not inclusive — it’s just the opposite,” Dooley told the Call. “And that’s the misleading part about this is that women, small businesses and minorities cannot participate with a ceiling of only $25,000. It’s not acceptable.”
Sixth District Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, said he believes the apprenticeship program actually ensures that minorities and women can participate in construction projects. Stenger has received wide labor union support in advance of the Aug. 5 Democratic primary for county executive, where he faces Dooley and Affton resident Ron Levy.
“Frequently, if you talk to labor unions across the board, what they will tell you is apprenticeships are the opening door — the door that opens for the trades. They start out as apprentices and move up, and that’s what we want to see,” Stenger said.
O’Mara’s two diversity bills passed 5-0, with Erby abstaining, and 5-1, with Erby voting against the bill with the $25,000 apprenticeship requirement.
The council also voted 6-0 for final approval of a bill that makes the county’s new diversity office permanent, although Erby questioned why council members would switch their votes after rejecting the same bill in June 4-2. Erby and Stenger were the only council members who voted for the office the first time around.
Third District Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, said she switched her vote on the diversity office because she likes a clause in the new bill that requires that the diversity manager work with the county’s procurement office on the diversity contracting requirements.
“At this particular moment, I believe that together with Councilman O’Mara’s bills, this bill will yield the collaborative effort that is desperately needed at this time, and I vote ‘yes’…,” she said.
Although Erby voted against her own diversity office bill the week before in protest of the other council members voting against her bills and overriding Dooley’s executive order, she said she would vote for final approval of the diversity office because she had sponsored it.
“This is my bill, I supported it — I just wish that we were on the right side of history and voted to go along with the other bills as well,” she said.