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Florissant state rep faces campaign finance-related charges, declining to resign

State Rep. Steve Webb, who is facing felony stealing charges as well as misdemeanor counts of campaign finance-related violations, has apparently changed his mind and won't resign from his post, as he had promised Democratic Party leaders.

In a statement, House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, said Thursday, "Due to the serious criminal charges filed against him, Representative Steve Webb told me Wednesday morning that he intended to resign his House seat by day’s end. Furthermore, Representative Webb explicitly gave me permission to share that information with the press and directed my staff to prepare his resignation letter."

But Hummel added, "Several hours later, he evidently had a change of heart and now has told reporters that he doesn’t plan to step down at this time. The decision on whether or when to resign ultimately is Representative Webb’s to make. But for the sake of his family and constituents, I strongly believe that he should follow through with his original intentions.”

The Beacon interviewed Hummel last night about the charges against state Rep. Steve Webb, D-Florissant. Above is audio of that exchange.

Webb hasn't responded to requests for comment from the Beacon, but has told other news outlets he's not resigning. His attorney earlier had told the Beacon that he couldn't confirm Webb's plans.

Paul D’Agrosa, Webb's attorney, said that Webb is making “an independent decision on whether he’s going to resign or not. That’s a decision Rep. Webb will make. And he’ll make his own announcement.”

On Wednesday, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney’s office charged Webb, a three-term Democrat from Florissant, with one count of felony stealing and seven counts of violating the state’s campaign finance laws.

In a probable cause statement for the felony charge, Detective Charles Faasen of the St. Louis County Police Department stated that Webb solicited $3,000 from Community Loans of America. The statement added that Webb “made a representation that the donation would be used to sponsor a reception by the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus in Washington, D.C.”

Faasen’s statement said that Webb deposited the funds he established with the name of Missouri Black Caucus and that Webb then transferred the funds to his personal bank account and used the money for personal use.

Webb was charged with a class C felony, which means he could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Missouri Ethics Commission investigator Della Lauders said in a probable cause statement for the misdemeanor charges that Webb “purposely failed” to report contributions and expenses; made cash expenditures in excess of allowable amounts; comingled contributions received with personal funds he controlled; and converted funds received by his candidate committee to personal use.

Among other things, the misdemeanor charges said Webb:

  • Failed to report $25,037 in donations between Nov. 6, 2010 and Oct. 6, 2012.
  • Failed to report $36,724 in expenditures from Nov. 6, 2010 to Nov. 21, 2012.
  • Spent more than the amount allowable during 2010, 2011 and 2012.
  • Converted $6,609.15 in campaign funds for personal use.

All seven counts were Class A misdemeanors, which carry up to a year in prison.
In a statement, Hummel, the minority leader, said, “Misappropriation of political donations for personal use cannot be tolerated, and, if guilty of the charges against him, Rep. Webb will have to answer for his alleged actions.

D’Agrosa said in a telephone interview that he hasn’t had a chance to review the charges.

“Obviously Steve is disappointed, but we need to regroup and take a look at the evidence,” D’Agrosa said. “I’m handling the criminal charges and I’ve  said to anybody who asks me: These are just allegations. He’s not guilty of anything."

D'Agrosa added, "Resignation shouldn’t relate to the fact that the prosecution was brought against him. It should relate to the considerations he has in his position.” 

After several failed attempts, Webb was elected to the Missouri House in 2008. That year Webb narrowly upended incumbent state Rep. Tony George, D-Florissant, and he's won election to two more terms in the Missouri House without difficulty.

Up until last year, Webb was the chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus. He was one of the most outspoken opponents against legislation altering the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Earlier this fall, Webb joined with a coalition of conservative and progressive Democrats to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of legislation limiting court-ordered damages against the Doe Run Company.

If Webb does resign, Nixon will have to call a special election to fill north St. Louis County's 67th District House seat. Webb did not face any opposition last year when he won election to the heavily Democratic seat.

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