ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. - The US Department of Justice says that St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has been indicted for a pay-for-play scheme. He pled not guilty in federal court this afternoon.
Stenger's attorney, Scott Rosenblum, says that he is resigning from the office of St. Louis County Executive. A letter of resignation has been obtained by FOX 2. It says: "It has been an honor to serve the people of St. Louis County as St. Louis County Executive. The past four years have been some of the most fulfilling in my professional career. I have determined after much thought that it is in the best interest of our county and my family that I resign as St. Louis County Executive effective immediately."
It is unclear who will be named the next St. Louis County Executive. There will be a special meeting at 6pm to pick a new leader. That person like Stenger will be a Democrat but does not necessarily have to be a St. Louis County Council member.
Stenger was indicted last Thursday on three counts of honest services bribery/mail fraud. If convicted, each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
"These are very serious charges. This clearly would’ve had a negative effect on the county executive’s ability to govern. That affects the whole region. The County Executive made the right decision in resigning. I will work with the new County Executive," writes St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson in a tweet.
One of the people specifically named in the indictment is John Rallo. The indictment says that Stenger took official action to ensure that Rallo and his companies benefitted from campaign contributions. The indictment alleges that Stenger took steps to hide the illegal activity, including making false public statements.
A federal grand jury has subpoenaed records from St. Louis County earlier this month. They requested that Stenger give them his call history texts and emails, with current and former county employees, related to contracts awarded by county departments. They were also asked to provide information regarding employment contracts for about seven senior staff members and related contracts awarded by the county to investors who donated to Stenger's campaign.
The subpoena specifically mentions the contract regarding the Northwest Plaza lease which was awarded to a company that donated over $300,000 dollars to Stenger's campaign and the contract deal for two publicly owned Industrial Parks in Wellston that were sold to investors who had donated about $40,000 dollars to Stenger's campaign.
There have been calls for Stenger to resign during this investigation. Former police chief turned county councilman Tim Fitch issued a statement in April calling for Stenger to step aside. Several of Stenger's senior staff members have resigned over the past few weeks.
This press conference was held on the federal courthouse steps after Stenger's hearing: