Hanley Hills trustee could be removed from office over criminal past

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HANLEY HILLS, MO (KTVI) - Before Thursday night's board of trustees meeting in Hanley Hills, supporters were already congratulating Charles Cleveland. Cleveland says he was the second highest vote getter among nine people running for four seats on the board.

People who voted him in don't seem to mind he's a convicted felon.

"He served that time it's not a life time sentence," said Etta Regans, a Hanley Hills resident.

In 1993, Charles Cleveland was convicted of a felony – distributing cocaine. He spent 16 years in federal prison for the crime. Now he says he's ready to give back to his community.

"Since I've been home I've been a member of the community and I've been supporting everything about this community," said Cleveland.

But some residents question whether he's qualified to hold an elected office. Many had hoped at the meeting that village attorney Anthony Gray would sort all that out.

"It's my legal opinion that one of the trustees elected, Cleveland, has not qualified to serve on this board," Gray said.

But Cleveland was still sworn in. He'll serve as trustee, temporarily, as Gray digs into whether it's legal or not. Gray said he's asked for the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to assist.

"I have a legal obligation to report any improprieties on any board that I'm a member of," Gray said.

Gray blames old Provision of Declaration forms at the St. Louis County Board of Elections.

"Among a whole lot of other mistakes St. Louis County made this year is that they had the old forms, not the new ones," Gray said.

The updated forms lay out that an elected official cannot be a convicted felon and must not owe any taxes.

Cleveland said if he's eventually removed, he won't give up the fight.

"What's next is I will sue the village and let due process take its course over in St. Louis County circuit courts," he said.