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Dooley taps two new members for St. Louis County Police Board, Sansone resigns

County Executive Charlie A. Dooley, center, announced two nominations to the county police board: Dave Spence, left, and Freddy J. Clark.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley announced two new appointments to the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners, including former GOP gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence.

Spence will take the spot of Gregory Sansone, who resigned from the board on Wednesday. Sansone has come under fire for a potential conflict of interest in the awarding of a contract.

At press conference Thursday in Clayton, Dooley, a Democrat, announced his plans to appoint Spence and Freddy J. Clark, a pastor of the Shalom Church, to the five-member board. Clark, a Democrat, takes the slot left vacant after Floyd Warmann’s resignation.

“I am pleased that they both agreed to this very important public service,” Dooley said.  “I believe they will be excellent members of the police board.”

The St. Louis County’s charter states that no more than three members of the board shall belong to the same political party. If the St. Louis County Council confirms them both, the board will have two independents, two Republicans and one Democrat.

Dooley also asked County Council Chairwoman Kathleen Burkett to immediately schedule a Committee of the Whole meeting to confirm the new appointees.

The police board has been under intense scrutiny since the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a series of articles examining a subcontract for heating and air conditioning construction for St. Louis County’s new crime lab. The paper reported that the county awarded a contract to ICS Construction Service, which then awarded a subcontract to SM Mechanical LLC for $3.7 million worth of heating and air conditioning work. Sansone, a member of the county police board, is an owner of SM Mechanical LLC.

Earlier this week, Burkett, D-Overland, said that Sansone should "probably" resign from the commission. She told reporters, “It’s reached a point where, in my opinion, he’s embarrassing the county executive.”

In a letter given to reporters, Sansone wrote that his company received the subcontract “because we were the lowest bidder by far.” He also wrote that “the contract was independently cleared by the county counselor’s office without any request or discussion by me." That was a reference to St. Louis County Counselor Pat Redington said the subcontract was allowed because ICS Construction Service – not the county – issued the contract.

But Sansone went on to write that Dooley’sproposal to include subcontractors in the county’s conflict of interest policy prompted him to step down from the board.

“It is my understanding that St. Louis County is pursuing a new ordinance, which will treat subcontractors the same as general contractors,” Sansone wrote. “As a subcontractor, and in the spirit of this new public policy, I believe that I should no longer serve on the Police Board.”

Questions about the contract prompted St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch to call for a FBI investigation. Since then, he's had some high-profile disagreements with Dooley, including issuing a terse letter questioning whether St. Louis County chief operating officer Garry Earls had improperly inquired about the FBI investigation. Dooley and Earls strongly denied those charges.

The council passed a resolution on Tuesday declaring their support for Fitch, with four “yea” votes and two members abstaining.

Both the Post-Dispatch and KMOX reported yesterday that subpoenas had been issued in relation to the investigation. Asked about his reaction, Dooley said, “Again, we’re going to cooperate fully with those individuals.”

“The county government has received the subpoena, that is correct,” Dooley said. 

'I volunteered'

Dooley’s appointment marks a return to the public eye for Spence, who unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Jay Nixon’s bid for a second term.

After announcing Spence and Clark's appointments, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley took questions from the press.

In an interview after the press conference, Spence told reporters that he volunteered for the post after reading news accounts of the controversy.

“When I read in the paper that Floyd Warmann had stepped down, I called a friend of mine who was on the board and I said I would be willing to serve and I’d be excited to serve,” Spence said. “I’ve never backed away from any tough situations in my life. I’m excited about it.”

He added that “a fresh set of eyes and ears is always helpful.”

“We’ll learn from what happened in the past and go on," Spence said, "And one thing you’ll have to know with me is I’ll always do the right thing.”

While Spence had returned to the private sector since the election, he did appear at the Missouri Republican Party’s Lincoln Days and penned columns for the Missouri Times.

Both Spence and his wife Suzie Spence were seen as potential state Senate candidates if Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, doesn’t run for re-election. But it would be essentially impossible for him to run for that seat and serve on the board, since the charter states no appointee “shall hold any other public office.”

Asked whether the appointment would take him out of the running for that seat should it be open, Spence said, “That’s too hypothetical for me.”

“Right now, I’m concentrating on being on the board and doing a great job for the citizens of St. Louis County,” Spence said. “There’s a lot of hypotheticals out there and a lot of questions. But at this point, neither one of us are seeking that.”

Clark is the pastor and founder of Shalom Church (City of Peace), which has two locations in north county.  The original campus of his church is located in Berkeley. During last year’s primary election, Clark appeared in a radio advertisement in support of U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay’s re-election bid.

"I’m pleased to have this opportunity again to serve our community," said Clark, according to audio from St. Louis Public Radio.

Clark’s term expires Nov. 1, 2014, while Spence’s tenure elapses on Nov. 1. Dooley said he would reappoint them for full terms on the police board.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.