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St. Louis County Council takes its fight against Stenger to court

With elections looming, tensions continue between the St. Louis County Council and County Executive Stenger.
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, second from right, argues with Council Chairman Sam Page in late August.

The St. Louis County Council is preparing to go to court to determine if it has the power to hire county employees over the objection of County Executive Steve Stenger.

But first, a judge will have to decide who pays the council’s lawyers.

“The county is not going to be paying for an attorney to sue itself,” Stenger said in an interview. “So I don’t know how the council plans on paying for that. But the council has no charter authority to appropriate money in that regard for such a payment.

On Wednesday,  County Counselor Peter Krane sent a letter to the council's prospective lawyers advising them that "the Council has no authority to enter into contracts and no payment authority."

The council voted 4-3 at Tuesday’s meeting to set up the legal fight.  At issue is the Democratic chief executive’s refusal to hire more staff for county Auditor Mark Tucker.

The council hired Tucker in the spring. Stenger says he’s unqualified and has pushed to have him replaced.

Council chairman Sam Page, who’s also a Democrat, supports Tucker. 

Page says a court battle is justified, in order to determine the broader issue of the council’s power.

“This is an important issue for everybody and it’s time for us to go court and try to get this decided.”

Stengerhas been at odds with Page and several other Democrats over various issues in recent months.  As a result, Page has become more influential — because a majority of the seven-member council now often side with him.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

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