Updated at 4:30 p.m. with names of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson's appointees.
The clock is officially ticking to appoint the Board of Freeholders, a 19-member body that could determine the future of St. Louis and St. Louis County governance.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page must appoint most of the members to the board in the next 10 days. But the two Democratic officials have different interpretations on how much time they have to act — and how quickly the city and county’s legislative branches must approve the picks.
The St. Louis and St. Louis County boards of elections certified on Monday that the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis collected enough signatures to form the Board of Freeholders. Krewson and Page appoint 18 out of 19 members of the board. Gov. Mike Parson appoints the final member. And the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and the St. Louis County Council must approve the selections.
The league began the process to create the board in response to the now-failed Better Together effort to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County governments.
The Missouri Constitution gives the board fairly wide latitude on what it can present to voters. Members could decide to consolidate certain services. They could combine St. Louis and St. Louis County’s governments. Or they could present city and county voters with no changes.
Krewson and Page have promised to nominate a diverse board in terms of racial demographics, geographic location and philosophical approach. Only 10 out of the 18 selections can be Democrats. The other eight have to either be Republicans, independents or members of a third party.
Soon after the election board certified the signatures, Krewson made her nine selections:
- Independent Abdul-Kaba Abdullah, the executive director of Park Central Development
- Democrat Bridget Flood, the executive director of the Incarnate Word Foundation
- Democrat LaShana Lewis, the CEO and founder of L.M. Lewis Consultant
- Republican Taunia Allen Mason, who serves as 28th Ward GOP committeewoman
- Republican James Mathis, an attorney who works at Husch Blackwell
- Democrat Earl Nance, Jr., the pastor at Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church
- Independent Eddie Roth, an attorney and former St. Louis mayoral staffer
- Democrat Jerry Schlichter, an attorney who helped develop the state historic preservation tax credit
- Republican Dan Zdrodowski, an attorney at Hais, Hais & Goldberger
During an interview with St. Louis Public Radio earlier this month, Krewson contended that her picks had to be made and approved within 10 days. The state Constitution states “within ten days after the certification the mayor shall, with the approval of a majority of the board of aldermen, appoint the city's nine members of the board.” Similar verbiage applies to the county executive.
“I am operating as if the Board of Aldermen has to approve them within the 10 days,” Krewson said. “It’s not crystal clear. But I’m operating to the more restrictive interpretation.”
Page said last week that the constitution gives him 10 days to make appointments — not that his selections had to be approved within that time frame.
“The constitution says that I have 10 days to appoint. It says my appointments have to be confirmed,” Page said. “I don’t see those two linked. But if that doesn’t happen within the 10 days, then that will be a question for the courts to answer. I intend to present my appointees for confirmation within 10 days. If they’re not confirmed for some reason, I’ll appoint more.”
Terry Jones, a University of Missouri-St. Louis political science professor who has studied the freeholders process, said in an email that “to my knowledge, there has never been a legal action raised about this question in the previous boards of freeholders.”
“Questions about ambiguous, constitutional and statutory language are only settled when there has been a court ruling which, in turn, requires some party to bring an action,” Jones said.
Once members are approved, the board will have a year to present a plan to city and county voters.
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