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St. Louis County Council Moves Forward While Awaiting Judge’s Ruling On Leadership

St. Louis County Councilmembers Lisa Clancy (left) and Rita Days
File photo / Jason Rosenbaum
St. Louis Public Radio
Democratic St. Louis County Councilmembers Lisa Clancy (left) and Rita Days are both vying to chair the council.

Updated at 9:35 p.m. Jan. 19, with Rita Days running the St. Louis County Council weekly meeting

The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday broke through its stalemate over who chairs its meetings — at least for this week.

Council members passed numerous bills Tuesday with Rita Days running the meeting. Days and three other council members voted to make her chairwoman on Friday, reversing a Jan. 5 vote that chose Lisa Clancy as chair for another year.

Clancy said that while she didn’t agree with Days running Tuesday’s meeting, the county had business to complete.

“In the meantime, Councilwoman Days, if it is your will to preside over tonight’s meeting, so be it. I do however want the record to reflect my objection to this action,” Clancy said. “We must get on to our business to the best of our ability until a judge rules over the matter. So let’s proceed.”

Days said “thank you very much” after Clancy’s statement and continued with the meeting.

A court case that County Counselor Beth Orwick filed Saturday to determine the chairmanship is pending before a St. Louis County judge.

Updated at 7:45 p.m. Jan. 16, with St. Louis County taking court action to see who is in charge of the County Council

St. Louis County filed a lawsuit Saturday asking a judge to decide who is running the County Council.

The action filed by the county counselor, seeks a ruling on whether Lisa Clancy or Rita Days is chair, as well as whether Ernie Trakas or Mark Harder is vice chair. Two factions of the council each say their choices are legally valid in a dispute that has lasted for several weeks.

“Since we do not agree with their action and cannot function with two members claiming to be Chair and two members claiming to be Vice Chair, the correct place to resolve this dispute is in the judicial system,” Clancy said in a statement Saturday. “I support the actions of our County Counselor today to request that the court intervene. It should go without saying that the court's interpretation will be final.”

Councilman Tim Fitch, who backed Days and Harder, has said he believes their election was legal.

Original story from Jan. 15:

The dispute over who will lead the St. Louis County Council this year continued Friday with the election of Democrat Rita Days as chairwoman and Republican Mark Harder as vice chairman.

Four members — Days and Shalonda Webb, also a North County Democrat, and Harder and fellow Republican Tim Fitch — voted for the new leaders. Those same four voted Tuesday for a resolution overturning the results of the Jan. 5 leadership elections, a vote that a legal opinion from the county counselor said is nonbinding.

“I do appreciate this,” Days said. “I wish that this transition had been somewhat smoother, but nonetheless this is where we are.”

Because of a charter change voters approved in November, the vote for chair and vice chair of the council occurred before newly elected members were sworn in. That meant Webb, who ousted Rochelle Walton Gray for the 4th District seat, did not have a chance to vote for council leadership. Gray was the deciding vote in Maplewood Democrat Lisa Clancy’s reelection as chair.

Clancy; Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-St. Louis County; and Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway, D-Chesterfield; all strenuously objected to Friday’s meeting.

“That you are treating adherence to the law as optional is dangerous and concerning, especially at this moment in history,” Dunaway said. “You may not like what the law says, you may even disagree with our lawyer’s interpretation. If you wish to initiate a legal proceeding to settle this dispute, please do so. But your response cannot be to install your own separate government.”

Both Clancy and Days acted as chair of the meeting. Multiple times during a public comment period plagued by technical difficulties, Clancy would give instructions to county staff members that Days would then repeat.

The issue is likely headed to court.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.
Fred is the politics editor at St. Louis Public Radio.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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