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City, county officials get blame for inaction on Board of Freeholders

A legal cloud appeared over the freeholders board since it carries a requirement that its work be completed in a year.
Credit: Michael B. Thomas, St. Louis Business Journal
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, left, and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page

ST. LOUIS — The Board of Freeholders, the body capable of transforming St. Louis government, had run out of time, hampered by a requirement that it finish its work in a year.

But Pat Kelly, executive director of the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis, said his organization last year wanted to revive the body, which can alter government structures in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County by putting forward a plan that must be OK'd by voters living there.

So Kelly said that last summer, he asked the offices of Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page whether they'd support the league in an effort to again collect the resident signatures needed to launch the board. Jones and Page would be required to nominate its members, who then must be approved by each government's legislative body.

"We never got a straight answer (from Jones or Page), in my opinion," Kelly said, adding that's why the league, an association representing area cities, hasn't again pursued the board process. It cost the league $100,000 to collect resident signatures needed to trigger the 2019 Board of Freeholders, Kelly said.

After the collapse of Better Together's city-county government merger plan in 2019, the Board of Freeholders, pushed by the league, had been viewed as a way to continue some type of merger effort, but it stalled when the Board of Alderman failed to confirm former Mayor Lyda Krewson's slate of board nominees. A legal cloud then appeared over the freeholders board since it carries a requirement that its work be completed in a year; parties debated whether its work had begun after one meeting was held without the city's slate.

The region's government structures have received renewed attention after the feds in June indicted four government officials — three in the city on alleged pay-to-play schemes and another in the county on an alleged scheme to steal from a Covid-19 business relief program.

Read the full story on the St. Louis Business Journal website.

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