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St. Louis Economic Development Partnership ousts CEO, ethics probe underway

Sweeney is out, Crim is in as CEO of STL Partnership
Provided | St. Louis Economic Development Partnership
Sheila Sweeney, left, was ousted as CEO of the St. Louis Economic Partnership. President Rodney Crim, right was named interim CEO by the group's board of directors in what could be a top-to-bottom reorganization of the city-county agency collaboration.

Sheila Sweeney is out, and Rodney Crim is in as interim CEO at the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.

"Our board has determined that a new direction is necessary to fulfill our mission of building this region’s economic engine," said Karlos Ramirez, partnership board chairman, in a statement released today.

"We are proud that our organization is one of the first combined efforts of the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County, and are committed to ensuring it can focus on our mission in the most efficient and effective way possible," Ramirez said.

It is not clear if Sweeney was fired, but recent revelations about finances and political cronyism at the organization have raised many questions about management.

Aninvestigation by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested that St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has directed many lucrative contracts to friends and supporters through the partnership.

The St. Louis County Council launched an ethics probe into the partnership last July. The focus has been on the organization’s finances and contracting process. The council has set hearings for later this month.

Rodney Crim has served as president of the partnership since it was formed in 2013 by the city of St. Louis and the St. Louis County to promote economic development in the region. Prior to the partnership, Crim was the chief economic-development official for the city in the position of executive director of the St. Louis Development Corporation for 11 years.

When reached for comment, Otis Williams, executive director of the St. Louis Development Corporation, said, "Rodney is a consummate professional and will do a great job leading the Economic Development Partnership."

In the partnership board's statement, Ramirez said, "Crim is an able leader with broad perspective on economic development issues. Crim is committed to making St. Louis a better region, and our board looks forward to working with him for a smooth transition."

Crim, as interim CEO, will help the board "conduct a thorough review of the organization's operations and structure to determine the structure and leadership to most effectively fulfill the mission of the organization," according to the announcement.

The board did not indicate Crim’s salary, or if Sweeney was provided a severance package. She was the director of the county’s port authority before she was selected as partnership CEO in 2015 after a national search was conducted. Sweeney’s salary for fiscal 2017 was reported to be $500,000.

A spokeswoman for SLEDP confirmed that a national search for a new CEO will be conducted.

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