Blues and Comptroller Green to face-off in court over Scottrade Center renovation financing

ST. LOUIS – The owners of the St. Louis Blues are taking the City of St. Louis Comptroller to court.  They are asking a judge to order Comptroller Darlene Green to sign off on a $64 million financing agreement for Scottrade Center renovations.

Comptroller Darlene Green says she is charged with protecting the city's credit rating and if she signs the agreement for the renovations of the Scottrade Center, that rating could be in jeopardy.  Green says she is being sued for doing her job.

“I’m only doing my job," she said. "It's not about me, it's about doing a job of a comptroller."

Green says she is the chief fiscal officer and released the following statement:

It is unfortunate that Comptroller Green is being sued just for doing her job. As Chief Fiscal Officer of the City of St. Louis, the Comptroller is charged with protecting the city's credit rating, and is given broad authority to pursue strategies that do so.

Pursuant to Article XV, Sec. 2 of the Charter of the City of St. Louis:

The comptroller shall be the head of the department of finance and exercise a general supervision over its divisions, over all the fiscal affairs of the city and over all its property, assets and claims, and the disposition thereof. He shall preserve the credit of the city, and for that purpose, or in case of any extraordinary emergency of any kind, he may, with the approval of the board of estimate and apportionment, and with or without any ordinance or other authority or appropriation therefor, draw warrants on the treasurer or effect temporary loans to pay debts and judgments and other liabilities of the city, or to meet any such emergency, charging such warrants to any excess balances in appropriations made by the general annual appropriation bill and specifically reporting his action to the board of aldermen at its first meeting thereafter.

Comptroller Green has made clear she would work with the Kiel Center Partners and other officials to find an alternate financing strategy, one that would not draw upon the city’s general fund and take money away from essential city services or harm the city’s credit.

At a time when everyone knew the City of St. Louis had to make compromises on its 2018 budget in order to meet a revenue shortfall, and citizens are being asked to pay an additional $3 a month for trash pickup and to pay more taxes for police raises, it behooves all to focus on the needs of the citizens.

There are several ways the Kiel Center Partners could have chosen to fund the renovations they want.  And yet they chose to pursue this strategy taking from St. Louis's 300,000 residents instead of pursuing a more equitable strategy.

The comptroller statement comes after the Blues filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order the comptroller to sign off on a $64 million financing agreement for the Scottrade Center renovation.  The Kiel Center Partners released a statement that reads in part:

Kiel Center Partners (KCP), L.P., filed a writ of mandamus to demand the Comptroller of the City of St. Louis to immediately execute and deliver the Financing Agreement – as required by law – authorizing the funding of renovations to the city-owned Scottrade Center, the issuance of bonds by the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) to finance the renovations, and payments by the City towards repayment of such bonds for the Scottrade Center Project.

KCP is responsible for completing the Scottrade Center Project under the Financing Agreement.

An official statement from KCP can be found at the end of this document.

On February 15, 2017 – six months ago today – after a full and public process (which included participation by the Comptroller and her staff), the St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed, and the Mayor signed into law, Ordinance No. 70743 approving the Financing Agreement.

Being an emergency measure, the Ordinance took immediate effect. Section 2 of the Ordinance establishes a clear legal mandate by stating that “The Mayor and Comptroller of the City are hereby authorized and directed to enter into and execute the Financing Agreement for an on behalf of the City” and Section 3 affirms that “The Mayor and Comptroller, or their designated representatives, are hereby authorized and directed to take any and all actions and to execute and deliver for and on behalf of the City” the Financing Agreement and ancillary documents necessary to carry out the purpose of the Ordinance (emphasis added).

All other parties to the Financing Agreement have taken all necessary action to approve and fully execute the Financing Agreement.  The Mayor and the City Counselor have also signed the Financing Agreement.

The City, however, has been unable to deliver a fully executed signature page, and hence the parties to the Financing Agreement are unable to implement its terms, because the Comptroller has refused to affix her signature to the Financing Agreement as directed by Sections 2 and 3 of the Ordinance.

Under well-established Missouri law, the Comptroller is legally bound to perform this ministerial act of executing and delivering the Financing Agreement.  The law is clear and unambiguous: The Comptroller’s execution of the Financing Agreement is a purely ministerial duty; the Ordinance directs the Comptroller to execute the Financing Agreement and grants the Comptroller no discretion to carry out this directive and no authority to second-guess the Financing Agreement approved by the Board.

The Board of Alderman President, Lewis Reed   is checking to see if green has the authority to refuse to sign   after the board gave the approval for the renovations.”  Green is going to look at it based on her view of the law.  That`s why it’s important we understand exactly what her authority is, so I ask our attorney to take a look at it,” said Reed.

Green says the city faces a credit crisis and has been downgraded by moody credit rating agency.” We have reached the tipping point otherwise we would not be on the credit watch by agencies,” said Green.   A St. Louis Judge says the St. Louis Comptroller Green has until September 15 to respond  to the lawsuit .The comptroller says  the lawsuit has yet to cross her desk