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St. Louis County Council Takes Aim At Former Colleague's Salary

Rochelle Walton Gray
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis County Council voted to strip funding from the county health department used for former Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray's position as vaccine outreach coordinator.

The St. Louis County Council is going after the salary and benefits of a former councilwoman hired by St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.

But the move to eliminate Rochelle Walton Gray’s hiring is unlikely to withstand Page’s veto.

Page tapped Gray earlier this year to be vaccine outreach coordinator in the St. Louis County Health Department. The hiring came after Gray lost re-election last year to Shalonda Webb, who currently represents the north St. Louis County-based 4th District.

Gray’s hiring drew criticism from some of Page’s detractors, as they argued the hiring was essentially payback for her longstanding support for the county executive’s agenda. Gray nominated Page to be county executive after Steve Stenger’s resignation.

That’s the main reason the county council voted 4-3 on Tuesday to strip about $122,000 from the county’s health fund. That’s the same amount of money that goes to pay for Gray’s salary and benefits.

Webb; Rita Days, D-Bel Nor; Tim Fitch, R-St. Louis County; and Mark Harder, R-Chesterfield; voted for the legislation.

“This is to express the council’s dissatisfaction with the political move that he made, obviously for reasons that we all know,” Fitch said. “That’s what this is about.”

Kelli Dunaway, D-Chesterfield; Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood; and Ernie Trakas, R-St. Louis County; voted against the measure. Both Clancy and Trakas said the legislation sent a bad message during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Taking money away from the health department at this time is not just disappointing, it’s reckless,” Trakas said.

Fitch disagreed with that assessment.

“If the county executive decides he wants to cut something else other than her pay and her benefits, that’s on him,” Fitch said. “This isn’t taking money away from the health department.”

Page spokesman Doug Moore said Page plans to veto the legislation. Because five votes are required to override his objection, that bill isn’t likely to be enacted.

Gray played a critical role in an ongoing dispute over who leads the council. She cast a deciding vote for Clancy in the first meeting of the year to be chairwoman. Four members of the council effectively nullified that decision and elected Days chairwoman. The matter is pending in front of a St. Louis County judge.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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