Dooley and Stenger trade barbs at council meeting

CLAYTON, MO (KTVI) – Tempers flared repeatedly in the St. Louis County Council chambers Tuesday night.

County Executive Charlie Dooley and one of his allies teed off Councilman Steve Stenger, Dooley’s opponent in the upcoming August 5th Democratic primary election.

There were two meetings:  the regular County Council meeting at night and the Committee of the Whole meeting a couple of hours earlier.

Both meetings featured either Dooley or his political ally, Council Chairwoman Hazel Erby, going after Stenger.

“That’s not true County Executive, I’m sorry,” Stenger said to Dooley during one exchange.

“You are sorry.  I understand that.  I agree with you,” Dooley responded crisply.

Earlier at the Committee of the Whole meeting, Erby sparred with Stenger.

She cut him off during debate over the troubled St. Louis County Children’s Services Fund.

“Madam Chair I’d appreciate having the opportunity, I had the floor, I’d like to ask my questions,” Stenger said.

“I’m going to finish this, Steve!” Erby said, refusing to allow it.

I feel like I owe you an apology because it’s election year,” Erby said to the audience.  “That’s what you’re dealing with right now – I’m so sorry.”

“I would respectfully disagree, Madam Chair,” Stenger said.

Stenger was ripping the Children Service’s Fund for failing to get effectively dollars from a special sales tax voters approved in 2008 to the children in crisis it’s meant to help.

The fund has a $78 million balance.

“I don’t think that it’s excusable.  I don’t think it’s something you should stand before the council and make excuses about,” Stenger said to the fund’s director, Julie Leicht, regarding the failure to provide the Council with a report on the fund’s current status in the wake of a scandal under the former director.

The former director has been under an FBI investigation for financial irregularities.   A bill to hire a marketing firm to help promote the fund never even had enough support to come up for a vote at the full Council meeting.

Leicht said she’d restored fiscal responsibility to the fund and unveiled a plan to allocate all but about the required reserve amount of about $20 million by 2017.

Groups currently receiving funding, credit the fund for keeping a child from going through on a plan to blow up his school and preventing youth suicides.

“73 times we’ve been involved in suicide preventions where kids were going to kill themselves.  So, I hope you all feel pretty good to know that there’s 73 kids alive today that maybe wouldn’t be here if hadn’t been for this service fund,” said Alan Erdman of Lutheran Family and Children Services of Missouri.

“We don’t spend money just because we have it,” she said.  “My staff teases me.  I won’t even buy water for the office.  No, no, no, we really take our duties responsibly.”

She acknowledged the political climate brought more intense scrutiny.

“That’s ok, I’m not afraid to talk about from where we’ve come,” she said.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Erby chided Stenger.

Stenger actually stood with Erby and Dooley on the vote that set Dooley off.

The Council voted on whether to make permanent The Office of Diversity Programs for minorities and females in the awarding of county contracts.

“All of this is August 5th,” Dooley said after the meeting, referring to the primary date. “All of it is.  It’s the last 8 weeks.  Everybody’s trying to position themselves.”

Still, Stenger and Erby were the only two ‘yes’ votes on the issue, which still failed.

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