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Mayors, clergy and state representatives to defend Black St. Louis County police commander alleging discrimination

The group believes Sam Page ordered the Board of Police Commissioners to pick someone other than Lt. Col. Troy Doyle because he was getting pressured by donors

VINITA PARK, Mo. — A group of clergy members, mayors from across St. Louis County and state representatives will gather Tuesday at Vinita Park City Hall to express their outrage over what they believe was County Executive Sam Page’s decision to pass over a police commander for police chief because he is Black.

Vinita Park Mayor James McGee tells 5 On Your Side that the group believes Lt. Col. Troy Doyle should have been named police chief, and that Page ordered the Board of Police Commissioners to pick someone else instead because Page was getting pressure from campaign donors not to pick a Black man.

The board unanimously voted for Capt. Mary Barton to lead the department. She is white.

In multiple interviews and statements, Page has insisted board members operate independently of him and Doyle was his pick, but in an audio recording obtained by 5 On Your Side, Page told a Doyle that the board members do what he tells them to do.

In a statement to 5 On Your Side, Page wrote that the call was recorded June 23 when Page wanted to gauge whether Doyle was interested in overseeing a review of the police department paid for by the business community.

"I do believe Lt. Col. Doyle has the right perspective and experience to lead the review," Page wrote. "It was that perspective and experience that convinced me he would have been a good police chief and I did advocate for him."

RELATED: St. Louis County Executive Sam Page to Black police commander passed over for chief: 'This police board will do what I tell them to do'

McGee is one of 13 mayors from St. Louis County who announced they are endorsing Mark Montavoni, who is running against Page in the Aug. 4 primary.

McGee said leaders from 24:1 Mayors, the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, Ecumenical Leadership Council and the Fannie Lou Hamer Coalition are among those expected to attend Tuesday’s press conference.

Doyle filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint on Friday alleging that Page ordered board members to pass him over. It’s the first step toward filing a discrimination lawsuit.

RELATED: Discrimination tied to campaign contributions, police board corruption among allegations in complaint filed by Black St. Louis County police commander

McGee said he believes the police board follows Page’s lead in making its decisions.

“He has a police board that will follow his lead unless you want an excuse to say, ‘Oh, the police board did it that way, it wasn’t my choice,’” McGee said. “It was your choice to select them for the vacancies and you put them in place, so I have a problem with that.

“That is blatant discrimination.”

Page appointed four of the five board members after a St. Louis County jury awarded then Sgt. Keith Wildhaber $20 million in October. He claimed he was passed over for a promotion because he is gay.

McGee said he and the other county mayors are upset that the county appears headed for another discrimination lawsuit.

“You haven’t learned anything from that discrimination?” McGee asked. “Now you are going to come along and discriminate again?

“That’s more money coming from St. Louis County and that’s hurting us. That’s our taxpayers' dollars that are going out and we’re not pleased with that.”

In a statement to 5 On Your Side, Page accused Doyle’s attorney, Jerome Dobson, of extortion. County administration leaders met with Dobson in July, and in a letter to him, County Counselor Beth Orwick wrote that Dobson threatened to file the complaint unless the county settled with Doyle for $3.5 million before the Aug. 4 primary.

Dobson has called Orwick’s allegations, “patently false,” and characterized the conversation as a “good faith effort” to negotiate a settlement in a letter back to Orwick.

McGee took issue with Page’s attack on Doyle’s attorney, and his refusal to respond to the allegation that Page ordered the board to pass over Doyle because of pressure from campaign donors.

“You know, his attorney is going to come up and represent him and he’s trying to be truthful and trying to do the right thing and then the first thing you do is attack their character,” McGee said. “That was another flaw that we have when you don’t want a person to be in that position you attack their character or you attack their qualifications.”

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