Tags: St. Louis County News
October 23, 2013 - Sixth District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, will challenge County Executive Charlie Dooley for the Democratic nomination for the county's top job next year, pledging to restore the accountability of county government in the process.
Stenger announced his candidacy for county executive last week surrounded by labor and political leaders, including county Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, who had retracted his support of Dooley the week before.
Listing a series of scandals involving county government in recent months, including millions of dollars in computer contracts awarded to a fake company owned by a health department employee and an FBI investigation into a subcontract awarded to a member of the St. Louis County Police Board, Stenger said the scandals have shaken public confidence in county government.
"After a decade, it's time for new leadership," he added.
The County Council appointed Dooley, then a councilman representing north county, as county executive after County Executive Buzz Westfall died in October 2003.
Stenger, 41, an attorney and certified public accountant who is a partner in the Clayton law firm Klar, Izsak & Stenger LLC, was first elected to the council in 2008, defeating Republican John Campisi on a platform opposing the creation of trash districts in unincorporated St. Louis County.
He was re-elected to another four-year term last November.
Since his Oct. 17 announcement, residents from south county and throughout the county have inundated Stenger with calls and letters of support, he told the Call.
"I think they really like the idea of restoring public confidence in St. Louis County government," he said. "I think they want to have a government that they can believe in and a government that they can trust and a government that's transparent."
As his first step if he is elected, Stenger plans to conduct a top-to-bottom forensic audit of county government to look for irregularities and re-vet every vendor, department, policy and procedure of the county. The audit Stenger proposes would be much more extensive than the normal audit the county does each year, which relies on a statistical sampling, he said.
"A top-to-bottom of everything, literally everything," he said. "That's the only way we're going to know where we are, and it's very much well worth it. Both in the short run and the long run, it's going to provide a baseline from which we can judge county operations, and it will give us great insight into what we need to do to right this ship, restore public confidence and restore integrity in the executive branch."
At his announcement, Stenger criticized what he called the awarding of plum county jobs to political cronies, inaccurate budget forecasts that led to alarm about closing the county's parks, domestic violence victims being turned away from county shelters, the county's lack of response to the underground fire at the Bridgeton landfill and the continuing federal investigations into county contracts.
"For those who have been working hard to turn this community around, they have a friend in this campaign and this candidate," Stenger said. "This is going to be an all-hands-on-deck effort to restore confidence in our county government ... A county free of embarrassments and scandals, at a minimum. I will fight beside you and work with you to usher in a new day for all of us in St. Louis County."
Stenger's fellow County Council members, 5th District Councilman Pat Dolan, D-Richmond Heights, and 4th District Councilman Mike O'Mara, D-Florissant, appeared at his side for the formal announcement in Clayton. Labor leaders, including representatives of firefighters' unions, also showed up to support Stenger.
McCulloch introduced Stenger at last week's announcement. Stenger, Dooley and McCulloch are all Democrats.
"The public confidence in St. Louis County government has eroded. In order to move forward as a community, we have to restore that integrity," McCulloch said as he introduced Stenger. "That integrity can be restored, but that work has to start at the top."
The Dooley campaign issued a statement the day of Stenger's announcement that said, "The announcement today by Steve Stenger that he is a candidate for county executive has no bearing whatsoever on the Dooley 2014 campaign nor will any other announcements by other potential candidates.
"Charlie Dooley is running and we are gratified by the support he is receiving in all quarters of St. Louis County."
In quarterly campaign reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission just prior to Stenger's announcement, Stenger reported receiving $223,000 in campaign donations in the past few months, including a $100,000 loan he made to his own campaign. In the same time period, Dooley raised $118,000.