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Losing Kinloch mayor has asked court to order a new election, new mayor threatens her own suit

File photo | Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

Updated 3:25 p.m. May 4 - Former Kinloch Mayor Darren Small, who lost on April 7, has filed a court petition that contests the election and alleges vote fraud.  The winning candidate, Betty McCray, is threatening legal action if she isn't soon allowed to get into City Hall.

Small's petition was filed in St. Louis Circuit Court last week, soon after the county Election Board presented the results of its house-to-house survey with county Prosecutor Bob McCulloch.

Neither the board nor McCulloch’s staff will disclose the results of the survey.

Small lost by 45 votes  to Betty McCray, who was sworn in by a county judge after city officials refused to let her into City Hall. McCrary could not be reached for comment, but previously has disputed the vote-fraud allegations.

Small is seeking a new election.

In his petition, Small cites a number of alleged examples where non-Kinloch residents were allowed to vote. In some cases, the registered voters’ addresses were listed as vacant lots, his petition says.

All told, only 83 people cast ballots in Kinloch's mayoral contest. McCray received 63 votes -- 75 percent of the total -- to Small's 18. A third candidate, Theda Wilson, received two votes.

County elections director Eric Fey said his staff conducted the survey of Kinloch voters’ addresses in response to Small’s initial allegations.

A spokesman for McCulloch said the survey’s findings “have been received and are being reviewed."

McCray's lawyer, Chet Pleban, contended that the city attorney, James Robinson, acted illegally by blocking her access to City Hall. Robinson has said she's being impeached.

Said Pleban: "You can't impeach an elected official before they take office."

Pleban added that McCray is likely to take legal action if Robinson and his allies don't back down. Pleban contended that if Robinson's action is allowed to stand, it could encourage other incumbents elsewhere who've lost elections to try to prevent their rivals from taking office.

Pleban represented Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul in his 2013 battle against council critics who sought to impeach him shortly after he took office. Paul handily won re-election April 7.

Pleban cited the city of Ellisville's hefty legal costs, of more than $100,000, on behalf of Paul's critics.

Said Pleban: "We're basically telling the city of Kinloch, don't go down this same path."

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.