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Dooley says new background-check ordinance slowing down process to fill police board

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 8, 2013 - St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley says a recently passed ordinance mandating background checks for nominees to the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners is slowing down the process of filing up the depleted panel.

Earlier this summer, Dooley nominated Democrat Freddy J. Clark and Republican Dave Spence to serve on the five-person police board.

The nominations came amid intense scrutiny after a general contractor hired by the board had awarded SM Mechanical LLC a $3.7 million subcontract for heating and air conditioning construction for St. Louis County’s new crime lab.

A board member at the time, Greg Sansone, is an owner of SM Mechanical LLC. He has since resigned.

Clark later withdrew his name, but Spence’s nomination is still under consideration. The St. Louis County Council must approve the nominees.

Dooley told reporters on Tuesday that one reason that Spence’s nomination has stalled is a new ordinance requiring background checks on an appointee’s criminal and financial history.

He said it’s taken longer than usual to figure out what constitutes an appropriate “credit check” to satisfy the statute’s requirements.

“One of the delays is the ordinance itself, it didn’t give clear guidance on what represents a 'credit check,' ” said Dooley, who signed the ordinance into law even though he was critical of the measure. “So that’s one of the issues we have to address. And we are addressing it. It’s taken longer than we thought it would take. And we’re moving forward.”

He went onto say that “Spence’s nomination is still valued,” but added he’s not going to “agitate” for the council to move.

“I’m going to hope that they will act upon it as soon as we get the information,” Dooley said.

Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, said councilmembers are trying to “make sure the ordinance that was passed on background checks for police board nominees are carried out.”

“So that’s in the process, I understand,” Quinn said. “I just talked to some people from the administration about that. So, hopefully, shortly we’ll have that back. And then, councilmembers can make their decision.”

He added that there’s no indication that the nomination of Spence – a businessman who was the 2012 Republican nominee for Missouri governor – is in any jeopardy.

“My understanding is they’re waiting for the background check,” Quinn said. “That’s what I’m waiting for also.”

As of Tuesday, Dooley still has two additional police board vacancies to fill. If the council doesn't approve at least one new appointee, the board won't have a quorum.

As for when he might put forward the two other names for the board, Dooley replied: “Soon. Very soon.”

“We’ve still got Mr. Spence on board,” he said. “We’re still reviewing some other candidates as well.” 

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