CLAYTON – St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger resigned as county executive on Monday after he was indicted by a federal grand jury last Thursday on three counts including charges of bribery, mail fraud and “theft of honest services” in a pay-to-play scheme. Stenger plead not guilty in federal court earlier this afternoon. The indictment was a result of an investigation that began in early 2018 and was conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service and the IRS. The indictment additionally alleges that Stenger helped a campaign donor, John Rallo, and his companies get insurance contracts and a consulting contract from the county and obtain options to purchase real estate in Wellston, Missouri held by the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority of St Louis County. Stenger is also charged with helping another company get a state lobbying contract from the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. The indictment also alleges that Stenger made false public statements and took other steps to cover up the crimes. An ethics probe had also been launched and called for state and federal investigations into the county’s long-term lease for office space at property owned by developers who donated to Stenger’s campaign.
The Justice Department released a statement today that states that the “Stenger and others scheme to defraud an deprive St. Louis County citizens or their right to Stenger’s honest and faithful services through bribery and concealing material information.” The statement also said “The purpose of the scheme was for Stenger to use his official position to enrich himself through soliciting and accepting campaign contributions from individuals and their companies in exchange for favorable official action and for individuals and their companies to enrich themselves and their companies . . . through corrupt means.”
Lyda Krewson, the Mayor of the City of St. Louis stated on Twitter, “These are very serious charges.” She said, “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.”
If convicted, each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Stenger, a lawyer, has forfeited his law license. The County Charter provides that the County Council will pick a successor to Stenger. The County Council scheduled an emergency meeting for 6:30 pm today and appointed Dr. Sam Page as the Interim County Executive. He will serve until the November 2020 election. Stenger was elected to his first term as County Executive in 2014 and was re-elected in 2018.