CLAYTON — The St. Louis County Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday night to establish a hotline for whistleblowers to report misconduct with public money, and protect employees from reprisal if they come forward.
The bill was a reform growing out of the pay-for-play scandal that led to the resignation of former County Executive Steve Stenger on April 29 and his guilty plea four days later to three federal counts. Evidence collected by federal agents revealed that Stenger threatened to fire employees who refused to comply with his schemes directing contracts to campaign donors.
“We need to be able to proactively receive information from any source who feels like our procurement process is not being followed, or they are being politically pressured into making business decisions that are a violation of our ordinances or are unethical,” the sponsor of the bill, Tim Fitch, R-3rd District, said after the meeting.
The county will now seek bids from firms to operate the hotline and handle complaints, which will be sent to both the council’s ethics committee and the county executive’s administration for parallel investigations.
A supervisor who retaliates against a whistleblower could be found guilty under the ordinance and subject to a fine or jail, Fitch said.
The council also voted 7-0 to eliminate several fees for inmates at the St. Louis County Justice Center, a measure proposed last month by County Executive Sam Page, who said the fees were leaving inmates upon release without the means to re-enter the community, making them more likely to end up homeless or return to crime. The fees are:
• A $70 booking fee, charged to those who have already been sentenced.
• A $20 bond fee, charged to a person posting bond for an inmate.
• A $2 fee charged each time an inmate is seen by a nurse.
• A $5 fee charged each time an inmate is seen by the dentist.
• A one-time $5 fee for dispensing medication.
• A $20 medical assessment fee charged for each incarceration.