Thursday, February 02, 2012

Dooley Rekindles Friction Among Fellow Party Members on Council

Less than a month into the New Year and budget, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley swung the budget ax and cut 26 full-time county jobs last week. The parks and public works departments bore the brunt of the job cuts; 20 jobs lost in the parks department and six lost in public works. There was also one employee let go in the revenue department, but, according to a credible source, political hire Mike Temporiti (son of John Temporiti, Dooley’s campaign manager), was spared, thus holding on to his $70,000 per year job.

In addition to the job cuts announced last week, Dooley’s other cuts call for:

 the closing of the county’s three pools two weeks earlier this year (August 1)

 reducing park maintenance, including trash pickup and restroom cleaning

 eliminating some capital equipment costs, such as trucks, tractors, and mowers

 eliminating capital projects, including replacing the playground at Bee Tree Park, a boat ramp and restroom renovations at Creve Coeur Park, and window, roof, and restroom work at Jefferson Barracks Park

The job cuts are the result of three months of bickering and in-fighting between the county executive and his fellow Democratic-controlled council members, which began at a council meeting on Halloween night of last year in which Dooley presented the council with his plan to eliminate what he claimed to be a $10 million budget gap. At that time, Dooley proposed and threatened to close and/or sell more than 20 county parks and lay off 173 employees, mostly in the parks department. In addition, he threatened to close the West County Satellite Office, as well as drastically curtail snow plowing on residential streets.

The council resisted to Dooley’s threats and the public was outraged to the point that they packed the council chambers late last fall in a two and a half hour public hearing to voice their opinions about the proposed park closings and/or threats to sell them. Later, Dooley admitted that he mishandled the budget issue and reached a truce with then council chair Steve Stenger (D-South County, 6th District). With Dooley’s actions of last week, the rift has re-kindled. Mike O’Mara (D-Florissant, 4th District), the new council chair for this year, who played a key role in stewarding the truce between Dooley and the council, reacted angrily to the news of Dooley’s layoffs. O’Mara said, “Charlie and I had an agreement that there would not be any layoffs this year, and he broke it. His promise was part of my sell to my fellow council members. I don’t know what happened since last month, but now I’ve lost my trust with my council members.” Dooley denied that he made any such promise to O’Mara. Dooley said, “I told Mike whatever we could do with that budget, we’d do. It’s unfortunate, but we can’t work within that budget without making some layoffs.”

O’Mara’s concern is that the layoffs will jeopardize a $100 million bond issue that the council recently approved to be on the ballot on April 3 to build a new Family Courts building. O’Mara said, “You think things have finally settled down, and we get this courts building on the ballot, and now a wrench gets thrown in the works again. We’re going to lose the trust of the citizens over this.”

Former council chair Stenger contends that Dooley should have first fired the eight Democratic campaign workers who got county jobs last year while a hiring freeze was in place. With regard to the parks and public works employees who were let go, Stenger said, “Our parks and public works employees bring a real and measurable value to taxpayers. But these political hires are just being carried on the payroll until the next election.” By the way, the next election is in November of 2014 and there has been speculation that Stenger may bid for the county’s top job. Dooley’s response to Stenger’s comments was that he had not considered firing the political appointees. Dooley said, “I’m not going to pit one group of employees against another. It’s never fair for any employee to be laid off who hasn’t done anything wrong, but the constraints are what they are.”

To listen to the comments from Dooley and Stenger, click on the link below to the Mark Reardon Show on KMOX Radio, entitled, “St. Louis County Council Chair Steve Stenger on County Executive Charlie Dooley laying off 27 county employees due to budget cuts.” Dooley’s comments assert that the cuts were necessary, while Stneger contends they were not, nor does Stenger understand the rationale for the cuts just three weeks into the new budget year.

At present, it appears that Dooley has but two allies left remaining among the seven members on the council. They are: Hazel Erby, (D-University City, 1st District) and Kathleen Kelly Burkett (D, Overland, 2nd District). Dooley’s long time ally, Mike O’Mara, shifted his allegiance last fall to former council chair Stenger when Dooley initiated his budget cut proposals and threats. Note that this is the first time there has been a major rift between the council and the county executive when members of both entities are of the same political party and maintain a majority on the council.


  1. I quit being afraid when my first venture failed and the sky didn't fall down.@bose
    I quit being afraid when my first venture failed and the sky didn't fall down.

  2. Anonymous4:50 PM

    Charlie is doing what Charlie is supposed to do, and that is to stop the spending and balance the county budget. If the tax revenue is short, cut the spending.