Federal investigation into St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger starts with internal ethics report

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ST. LOUIS - The U.S. Attorney’s Office is ordering St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger's office to provide thousands of pages of documents Wednesday to a Grand Jury. They`re demanding information about contracts, campaign donors, and your tax dollars.

Much of what’s contained in the Federal subpoena is tied to a 2018 St. Louis County Ethics Committee report. The report focuses on the former Northwest Plaza property, called Northwest Crossing, which is now home to Elections and several other County offices. The report alleges County Executive Steve Stenger hid a multi-million-dollar transaction that reportedly benefitted him while costing taxpayers.

District 6 Councilman Ernie Trakas is the committee chair who handed the report, along with thousands of pages in documentation, to the Feds. He said, “We weren't wrong, because the U.S. Attorney`s office doesn’t open investigations on a lark.”

The report found the Northwest Crossing developers donated more than $365,000 to the Steve Stenger campaign, then Stenger reportedly arranged for those developers to get the County's lease contract.

Trakas said, “By design and intent, the negotiation of these leases at Northwest Plaza, circumvented the Department of Public Works where the experts are and was negotiated by one individual, Mr. Stenger`s former campaign manager.”

Before Trakas was elected, watchdog Tom Sullivan noticed one of the first unusual campaign contributions, a $25,000 contribution on July 31st, 2015 from Givco LLC. He asked about it in an August 2015 council meeting.

Sullivan said, “I think the County Executive needs to explain what this is all about.”

Today Sullivan said, “I did everything but stand on my head but they weren`t listening.”

He added, “When you take in nearly $400,000, and then you provide a no-bid leases to a firm that could be worth 50- 60-70 million dollars, it`s hard not to realize that this is just something that is corrupt.”

County professional were also questioning the move.

In February 2014, then Elections Director Rita Heard Days wrote in an email, “...we thought the Mills location was better, that was not a consideration from the County Executive and his staff.”

March 2nd, 2016, former Public Works Director Nick Gardner warned the lease would be “...selling our soul to the DEVIL..."

The Ethics report says the experts had no say, then as soon as the deal was sealed, the report says "the (developers) received $32 million in cash."

Councilman Trakas told me, “There`s no way this was a good deal for the County. The County could have purchased property and built its own building for one-third of what this will cost.”

Steve Stenger declined to comment, citing the Federal investigation.

Wednesday in the Fox Files, we’ll reveal why it took years for the authorities to pay attention

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