(The Center Square) – The top elected leaders of the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County today separately addressed federal corruption charges filed against their elected and appointed government officials during the last week.
Last week, the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, a current alderman and a former alderman, were indicted on federal bribery charges. On Tuesday, a St. Louis County Justice Center administrator appointed by County Executive Sam Page was charged with four counts of wire fraud in a scheme to fraudulently obtain federal pandemic stimulus funds distributed by the county.
Page credited the county’s processes and procedures for preventing his appointee, Tony Weaver, from obtaining federal funds for small businesses by falsely stating the pandemic’s effects in 2020.
“I don’t know what to do to prevent people from trying to steal from local governments, state governments or federal governments,” Page said during a press briefing today. “Folks will try. And we will have procedures to stop them from being successful. And then folks in the FBI and law enforcement will always be around watching and looking to bring people to justice when they’re caught.”
After Tuesday’s resignation of Lewis Reed, the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen for 15 years, Mayor Tishaura Jones said corruption is widespread.
“Let me be clear: This problem runs deeper than a few individuals,” Jones said on Tuesday. “St. Louisans deserve better, and I am committed to working alongside fellow leaders to begin the difficult process of restoring trust and integrity in our city government.”
Jones said the three aldermen obstructed her on policies, and after tax abatements they requested were stopped.
“But the charges outlined in the indictments go beyond any personal or political agreements,” Jones said Wednesday at city hall. “The U.S. Attorney has pulled back the curtain on how certain politicians can exploit our city government for their own personal gain and profit.”
Jones said the indictments provided no political victory and mentioned her family’s encounter in a similar situation. Her father, Virvus Jones, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of tax fraud in the 1990s and resigned as city comptroller.
“I understand firsthand what it’s like to keep loving someone unconditionally, even as they face consequences for their actions,” Jones said. “This is a feeling families across St. Louis empathize with. Each day, I’ve taken time to pray for the families of those indicted, for those who have seen their futures thrown into limbo in the past week. I know what that’s like, so to all listening, please give grace to those who are suffering through no fault of their own.”
Page emphasized the necessity of conversations instead of political attacks to provide transparency and restore trust.
“We talk about what’s going on … politicizing every small decision of county government,” Page said. “Unfortunately, there is a very intense effort to find conflict even when there is none.”