CLAYTON, Mo. — St. Louis County Executive Sam Page sent an email to all county employees Tuesday reminding them to “treat and talk about our constituents respectfully,” one week after the county’s health director urged his staff to ignore the “lunatic fringe” as they work to combat COVID-19.
“In this time of rancor, we must commit ourselves to rising above it,” Page wrote in a county-wide email. “St. Louis County simply can’t afford for any county employee at any level to be distracted from the serious duties they are needed to perform for our constituents. I want to remind each of you, at all levels of county government, to treat and to talk about our constituents respectfully.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported that Dr. Faisal Khan, acting St. Louis County health director, sent an email to health department employees Nov. 23, which read: “Please ignore the lunatic fringe that exists in every society. They were there one hundred years ago and will likely be around 100 years in the future. They are irrelevant fools.”
Page did not reference Khan by name or the incident in question in his email to county employees Tuesday.
County Council Chairwoman Rita Days decried Khan’s language. Councilman Mark Harder is expected to present a letter calling for Khan's resignation or termination during tonight's council meeting.
Page asked the council months ago to confirm Khan as the permanent health director, but the council has not yet voted on the matter. Councilman Tim Fitch said he expects the council to discuss the matter at tonight's meeting as well.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Khan also used the email to encourage health workers to continue to take precautions ahead of an expected rise in cases following holiday gatherings.
By Wednesday, critics of public health measures circulated Khan’s email online, including some of the people who have appeared at County Council meetings in recent weeks to oppose a county requirement that people wear masks in public and on public transit. The mask order is currently under a legal challenge.
The email controversy comes four months after Khan made an obscene gesture at a group of angry anti-mask mandate protesters after he appeared at a County Council meeting to speak about his latest public health order. He then claimed members of the audience at that meeting assaulted him and uttered racial slurs at him as he walked out of council chambers – claims surveillance footage and testimony from officers who were there that night did not support.
Here is the full text of Page’s email:
“This is a difficult time in our county and in our country. Public service has always been a tough line of work. I am very proud of the work St. Louis County employees have done, especially through the pandemic’s stress and strain.
“But it seems the public discourse throughout our nation is growing even more hostile, personal and destructive. It can be easy to get caught up in emotions about these issues, particularly on issues we are passionate about. All of this weighs heavily on each of us in public service. We have serious jobs to do. And we must perform our duties equally for all of our constituents – whether we agree with them or not.
“In this time of rancor, we must commit ourselves to rising above it. St. Louis County simply can’t afford for any county employee at any level to be distracted from the serious duties they are needed to perform for our constituents. I want to remind each of you, at all levels of county government, to treat and to talk about our constituents respectfully.
“People enter public service because they are called by a sense of duty to our community. Please keep that motivation in mind as you continue your work for the people of St. Louis County.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.