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Dooley Speaks Out On Corruption Allegations, Ferguson, Time In Office

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley talks to 'St. Louis on the Air' host Don Marsh and St. Louis Public Radio political reporter Jo Mannies on Dec. 18, 2014, at St. Louis Public Radio in St. Louis.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley has just a few days left in office, and despite some recent outbursts, he wants people to know he’s not angry or bitter. He says he’s relieved.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorneys office announced that no federal laws were broken when a $3.75 million subcontract for the St. Louis County Police Department’s new crime lab was awarded to SM Mechanical, owned by Gregory Sansone. At the time, Sansone was the head of the county police board, a position Dooley appointed. Sansone subsequently stepped down from that position.

But questions of corruption and conflict popped up in the August primary as Dooley sought re-election against County Councilman Steve Stenger. A federal investigation was launched, and cited in Stenger’s attack ads.

After Tuesday night’s County Council meeting, Dooley lashed out, saying Stenger knew there was no corruption and that St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, who supported Stenger, was behind the controversy. Dooley also said the attacks were racially motivated. Dooley is black; Stenger and McCulloch are white.

Dooley repeated those assertions Thursday on “St. Louis on the Air.”

“In this city, once that’s brought out like that, it’s very difficult for an African-American to defend himself,” Dooley said. “If you read the papers in St. Louis, every day that’s what they talked about. Every chance they got ... they talked about corruption and linked me to people that I had no political affiliation with, but because they did some wrongdoing, I was put in that same vein. That was done time and time again. It was obvious what they were doing, and quite frankly, it worked.”

It wasn’t the only controversy debated during the primary.

In 2013, Edward Mueth, the St. Louis County Health Department’s director of executive administration, committed suicide a day before he was scheduled to answer questions about misuse of funds. Mueth allegedly set up a fake computer company that overbilled the county for goods and services. He shot himself after other department officials began asking questions. A $3.4 million embezzlement scheme was unveiled after Mueth’s death.

“You would think that Charlie Dooley stole $3.5 million,” Dooley said Thursday. “Since when do you put the county executive over the fold of the paper with the person that actually did the stealing as if I actually stole the money? There’s no other elected official ever had that situation.”

Mueth was not appointed by Dooley; he was hired nearly nine years before his death, as Dooley pointed out.

“I cannot be responsible for 4,000 employees,” he said. “I’m responsible because it was on my watch, but to say I actually had something to do with it or I could have physically stopped it, that’s untrue. And Bob McCulloch knew that.

“Anybody who’s in office for 11 to 12 years, things do happen. There’s a double standard in this community when it comes to certain issues.”

'There Are Things In This Country That Are Double Standards' 

The primary occurred a few days before the August shooting death of Michael Brown by police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson. Since then, Dooley also has taken some heat for how the county handled the situation and his participation.

“I was involved in the process. I was down with the marchers down there,” Dooley said. He was in Ferguson the day after the shooting. “I was there, but the cameras weren’t on me, and I wasn’t there for the cameras to be on me. I was there to support what was going on in that community and in our police department and the people in that community.

“For someone to say Charlie Dooley was not engaged, that’s simply not true. You may say you didn’t see me; that doesn’t mean I wasn’t involved.”

When Gov. Jay Nixon took over, Dooley said he was not consulted — a complaint echoed by other county and Ferguson officials. Nixon declared a state of emergency before the grand jury decision was announced in late November, allowing him to deploy National Guard troops to St. Louis and St. Louis County. Even then, Dooley said he didn’t know what was going on.

“He did not call me,” Dooley said of Nixon. “I had to call him.”

“When he decided to come in and take over the operation, he didn’t ask me. He didn’t call the county executive. He did this all on his own. I’m always behind the eight ball on everything he was doing. A lot of it was taken out of my hands once the governor got involved in it.”

Looking back, Dooley said some things should have been handled differently, especially regarding sensitivity training for county police officers. Dooley also said he has reservations about the use of tear gas.

“I’ve seen things in these United States. I love this country — let’s be clear about that. But there are things in this country that are double standards,” Dooley said. “You never see white protesters, gas being thrown on them.”

Looking ahead, Dooley said he’s hopeful.

“I believe some good is going to come about. How much, I don’t know,” he said. “In St. Louis County, there are two different worlds. There’s the worlds of Chesterfield, Wildwood, Clayton, Ladue, all those areas. They live in a different world than the rest of the people in the north county area and some of the north city areas. When they read in the paper about somebody losing their life, to them it’s far removed. It’s not even where they live. They can’t even identify with it. And that’s the problem, because they don’t see there’s a problem.”

As for himself, Dooley said he plans to remain involved in the county.

“I love this community. I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” he said. “I will volunteer my time. Whatever they want me to do I will do. I will do what it takes to make this a better community. One person can’t do it by themselves, and, let’s be clear about this, it’s not going to happen overnight.”

“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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