Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis County Council May Issue Subpoenas in Northwest Plaza Lease Probe

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis County Council May Issue Subpoenas in Northwest Plaza Lease Probe

Article excerpt

CLAYTON -- St. Louis County Council members said Tuesday they may seek to compel testimony from two real estate developers after they failed to show up to an ethics hearing.

Although they did not appear in person, Robert and P. David Glarner had four boxes, including some 7,000 pages of documents, delivered in response to the council's request for cooperation in the probe.

The council is digging into the negotiations that led to the signing of the 20-year lease at the Glarners' property, the former Northwest Plaza shopping mall in St. Ann. The Glarners were major contributors to former County Executive Steve Stenger's political campaign, donating $365,000. 

The production "far exceeds the purpose for the committee," Rich Chrismer, a spokesman for the Glarners, said in a prepared statement.

But Ernie Trakas, R-6th District, the council's presiding officer and chairman of the ethics committee, said the inquiry could not progress without subpoenas, and the two other committee members, Mark Harder and Lisa Clancy, agreed. 

The council began its probe into the Northwest Plaza deal in early 2018 after a Post-Dispatch investigation showed that Stenger's staff misled council members into supporting the deal on the premise that it would save taxpayers $10 million. The newspaper's analysis found the deal did not save money and had the potential to cost the county millions.

The council revived its Northwest Plaza inquiry after Stenger pleaded guilty May 3 in a federal pay-to-play case. The Northwest Plaza lease did not factor into the Stenger indictment, but it was at the top of a list of documents that a federal grand jury commanded the county to produce as part of the U.S. government's ongoing corruption probe. Both Stenger and the Glarners have previously denied they made a cash-for-contract deal.

The county charter appears to give the council the power to compel records and testimony, but there was no record of that power having been used.

Trakas said the council's probe would focus on negotiations that resulted in Stenger's director of operations signing the lease, and on "actions taken" after the council authorized the leases in mid-2016. …

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