Bills call for charter votes on ethics

CITY HALL – Lobbyists couldn’t give a gift of more than $5 to a candidate or elected official if voters approve one of three campaign finance and elected officials ethics proposals introduced in the Board of Aldermen on May 17.

If the board approves the bills, voters will consider them as three separate amendments to the St. Louis City Charter in the Nov. 3, 2020, election. Sixty percent of the voters would have to approve them for them to become law.

“I think that we need some campaign finance reform in this city and this state and this country, and I think that ensuring that there aren’t payments coming to candidates directly before or directly after contracts are made is a good thing for citizens of St. Louis,” said 24th Ward Alderman Bret Narayan, one of the co-sponsors.

“When you look at the pay-to-play scandals that are happening in St. Louis County, it’s important for us as a city to recognize that we should not be taking money from lobbyists or should not be accepting donations from people who have contracts with the city,” said another co-sponsor, Ward 9 Alderman Dan Guenther.

Guenther referred to the charges against former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who recently pleaded guilty to three counts of theft of honest services bribery/mail fraud for steering contracts to a campaign donor.

Fifteenth Ward Alderwoman Megan Green is the sponsor. Other co-sponsors are Sixth Ward Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, Ward 8 Alderwoman Annie Rice, and Ward 28 Alderwoman Heather Navarro.

The first of the election proposals would prohibit candidates running for office in the city from accepting campaign contributions from individuals or entities that are competing for or submitting an application for any city contract. Candidates wouldn’t be able to accept a contribution from 90 days before any solicitation or request for proposals until 90 days after a contract has been awarded.   

The second bill would change the city charter to prohibit contributions to a candidate for a St. Louis city office from any donor who hides his or her identity in an attempt to get around the maximum allowable campaign contribution. This could include having others give the actual donor’s contribution or giving it through a committee that the donor controls.

The third bill states that elected public officials or candidates for office in St. Louis can’t directly or indirectly accept a gift of more than $5. This does not include contributions made in accordance with city, state and federal law.

Also, without debate, the Board of Aldermen passed a resolution calling on Mayor Lyda Krewson to verbally report on current conditions in the city and provide policy proposals in a “State of the City Address.”

The resolution, sponsored by 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, says the address should be delivered no later than July 5 in the board’s chamber on a specific day and time agreed to by the mayor and board president.

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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