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Erby Files Whistleblower Suit Against St. Louis County

A former member of the St. Louis County Council and of Sam Page’s administration has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the county.

Hazel Erby’s suit, filed Friday, accuses Page of firing her as the county’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion in August because she told Page that a contract for a temporary morgue did not have enough participation from minority- or women-owned businesses.

The suit also claims that contrary to what was standard practice at the time, Page did not tell Erby’s office about the construction of the morgue so he could avoid scrutiny of the county’s hiring practices.

An administration spokesman said the office would not comment on pending litigation.

Erby represented north St. Louis County until May 2019, when Page appointed her to head the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, making $121,000 a year.

Her ascension to that role came just 10 days after she cast the lone vote against Page’s elevation from council member to county executive following Steve Stenger’s resignation. Some Black political leaders were upset that Erby wasn't picked as county executive, especially since she had been a consistent critic of Stenger's administration and had more seniority than Page on the council.

Erby told St. Louis Public Radio in August that she was not surprised by her dismissal, citing ongoing tension between her and Page.

"I took the job because ... there's a negative culture in St. Louis County. And you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out," Erby said. "There are things that I think that I did accomplish that would not have been done had I not been there. I'm disappointed because St. Louis County government is still in the same place, and we've got a leader who says that he cares about it, but he obviously does not. If you do say that you care and you value something, then you put the resources where it needs to be."

Erby has also filed a separate employment discrimination claim.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.