ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – An investigation into St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger includes a stunning allegation that a high-level employee signed a multimillion-dollar lease he knew nothing about.
Four St. Louis County councilmen formed an ethics committee in 2018 to look into the Northwest Crossing lease at former NW Plaza. The man typically responsible for signing leases had said the lease deal would be selling the county’s soul to the devil.
The ethics committee requested federal investigators step in after concluding in its June 2018 report that the county executive “falsely claimed there was competitive bidding” and “falsely claimed (the lease) would save the county money.”
“The conclusions that the Committee reached were not simply visceral type of feelings,” Councilman Ernie Trakas said. “There were documents and testimony that supported those conclusions.”
Trakas chaired the committee and wondered why the lease went through without negotiation by former Public Works Director Nicholas Gardner.
“Mr. Gardner, despite his personnel being circumvented in the process of the developing the leases, when he got a copy, finally read it and to his credit, like you say, laid it out in pretty plain language that executing this kind of lease would be making a deal with the devil,” Trakas said. “Not only that, he refused to sign it.”
During a March 3, 2018 inquiry, Trakas questioned the man who did sign: Operations Chief Glenn Powers.
Trakas asked Powers, “Did you read it before you signed it?”
Powers answered, “I didn`t sign the lease.”
Trakas showed Powers his signature on the lease and Powers acknowledges it was his.
Powers corrected himself.
“Yes. I… I… I’m sorry. I answered in error to that,” he said.
Trakas followed up. “So back to my original question. Did you read it before you signed it?”
“No,” Powers said.
Trakas told us this week, “So we have a high-level county official, director of administration, executing a lease that he hasn’t even read yet.”
Trakas added that he has no explanation for it.
After two phone calls and a personal visit, Glenn Powers emailed his response to Fox 2/KPLR 11 just before 5 p.m. Thursday.
"I simply misspoke when I was first asked about signing the Northwest Plaza lease," he wrote. "I was not tricked or duped into signing the lease. The project had widespread support from elected officials and I was happy to participate in the renovation of the mall property."
The ethics committee also asked Powers where did Steve Stenger's now refuted claim come from that the deal would save $10 million? Powers said it came from Stenger’s campaign manager.
The Stenger’s office said it was cooperating with the feds in turning over thousands of pages in documents to a grand jury.