To help you feel more connected to and involved with your County government, each week I'll be sharing with you the report that I present at the County Council meetings. You are welcome to attend County Council meetings; they are open to the public and feature time for public comment.
Below is the County Executive Report I delivered during the February 11, 2020 County Council meeting.
Thanks Lisa, and good evening everyone –
Yesterday was a historic day in County government, one that will measure both its past and its future.
While we cannot control the past, we can embrace the future and shape it in a way that is inclusive to everyone who lives and works in St. Louis County. I look forward to working with each of you sitting here beside me and with the public as we move forward.
As we look for a new police chief, I have three goals for the Police Department.
1 - Keep Us Safe – The Police Department’s primary mission is to keep our community safe. Our officers to a good job already, and that job will continue no matter what.
2 - Respect All People – The Police Department must always respect the dignity of all people. That means our officers must respect community members while on patrol, our police leadership must respect officers during promotions, and our community must respect the life-risking work that our officers do every day.
3 - Adopt the Latest Strategies – The Police Department must adapt to changing times, adopt new technologies, and deploy innovative tactics to keep on the cutting edge of law enforcement. This will require collaborating with other stakeholders in the community and in law enforcement including our county prosecutor.
I have said all along that change begins at the top and it did, with my appointment of 4 new members to the five-member Police Board. I encouraged Chief Belmar to lead the Police Department through the transition and he has. That included creating a new Diversity and Inclusion unit,promoting Keith Wildhaber to lieutenant and having Keith oversee the new unit.
Belmar shared with me last year, before I became county executive, that he was considering retiring in 2020 so this is the natural course of his plans. His career is long and accomplished, and I appreciate the work he has done.
The process of changing the Police Department’s leadership will be thoughtful and orderly. I have already begun discussing future leadership with members of the Police Board and I look forward to working with them as the next Police Chief is chosen. This is an opportunity for an open dialogue about the future of the Police Department. I am confident that future will be built on a strong foundation that already exists.
Part of that future will be Lt. Wildhaber, who, in his new role, can help us shape a Police Department that has a hiring and promotion process that is barrier free. That means no discrimination of any kind against anyone.
The settlement agreement, finalized yesterday, is fair to Keith and fair to the taxpayers and acknowledges what Keith survived in the Police Department. We did not believe an appeal was likely to succeed, and it would have resulted in taxpayers paying more than $22 million in judgment, interest, and attorney fees.
The amount is significant and will serve as an important lesson to County government and to employers throughout the region – discrimination is completely unacceptable.
Voters adopted Proposition P to fund public safety investments – and that’s how it should be used. I have made sure that the settlement of this case will be paid out of the County’s general fund.
We are planning to bond the settlement so that the cost can be spread out over several years and have minimal impact on our budget. I will be asking the Council for approval to do that.
Finally, I’d like to call on our state legislators to finally pass the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act, a bill I co-sponsored 14 years ago. It would provide employment protections to LGBTQ people along with housing and access to basic services
Lt. Wildhaber’s case shows how much this legislation is needed. The jury was disgusted by what they heard. All Missourians should be too. Call your legislators and tell them the time for MONA is now.
That’s all for now, Lisa. Thank you.