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Can the St. Louis County executive have a second job? Constituents will decide

Dr. Sam Page, St. Louis County Executive, gives a public update on rental assistance during the COVID-1 pandemic on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, at the St. Louis County Government building in Clayton, Mo.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
County Executive Sam Page, shown last year, says he works nights and weekends to keep up his medical license.

St. Louis County voters will decide in April whether future county executives can work outside the office.

The St. Louis County charter currently says that “the county executive's entire time shall be devoted to the duties of the office.” The measure, on the ballot as Proposition B, makes a prohibition on outside work explicit, saying the executive “shall hold no other employment nor shall the county executive perform work as an independent contractor during the term of office.” Violating that provision would result in forfeiting the office.

Republican Councilman Tim Fitch has made no secret that the measure is targeted at Democrat Sam Page, the current county executive.

“I think it's very clear what the public intended when they passed the charter, even originally back into the 1950s, that they wanted a full-time county executive,” Fitch said. “However he claims there’s a loophole there that says there’s no penalty. This clears up any kind of loophole or any kind of doubt, and does add a specific penalty if he does it.”

Page has continued to work as an anesthesiologist, saying that he does the work on nights and weekends in order to meet the requirements of his medical license and that it does not interfere with his official duties. Fitch said he believes Page is working much more often than that. The council’s ethics committee has been investigating Page’s outside employment.

Ken Warren, a professor of political science at St. Louis University, said there is some room for interpretation in the current language about outside employment. But, he added, the proposed change would not immediately affect Page.

“You can’t pass a law and make it apply to that person who’s sitting in that office. It’s a clear ex post facto law that’s prohibited under our Constitution,” Warren said.

Passage of the charter change requires a simple majority. Putting it on the ballot passed the County Council last December on a 4-3 vote. In addition to Fitch, Republican Mark Harder and Democrats Rita Days and Shalonda Webb voted for the measure. Republican Ernie Trakas joined Page’s two strongest allies, Democrats Lisa Clancy and Kelli Dunaway, in voting no.

Other ballot issues

County voters will also decide whether future executives should have to pay for the costs of all employees out of the budget of the office, rather than spreading it to the departments in which they work.

They will also be asked whether to allow Raintree School to sign a 40-year lease on a building in Queeny Park that once housed the American Kennel Club’s Museum of the Dog. The school would pay $35,000 in rent the first year and is required by the terms of the proposed lease to make at least $5 million in upgrades over the 40 years.

In addition to hundreds of local offices, voters in a number of municipalities will decide whether to impose a local use tax for online purchases.

Several fire departments or districts, including Crestwood, Black Jack and Affton, are asking for tax increases or to borrow money to keep up with increased demand for services.

Florissant and St. Ann are hoping to borrow money for recreation facilities, and the Pattonville School District has a proposal for $111 million in upgrades at its 10 buildings.

Polls open at 6 a.m. April 5. Thanks to recent technology upgrades, county voters can go to any polling site, not just the one they are assigned, to cast their ballots.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.