"Mayor's Senior Staffers Lie to the Public in Attempt to Cover Up Scandal."
So says the latest header on a press release from the campaign of Lewis Reed, the Board of Aldermen President hoping to unseat longtime St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. And with it comes the sense that the mayor's race has perhaps reached a new low of attacks and divisive rhetoric as the primary election day approaches.
"Jeff Rainford, [Slay's chief of staff], one hundred percent lied," Reed Campaign Manager Glenn Burleigh tells Daily RFT. "Flat-out lied."
What's the source of this latest spat -- and why should we care?
Last week, the Reed campaign held a press conference to give reporters a stack of documents that allegedly prove that Mayor Francis Slay has been engaged in so-called "pay-to-play" schemes, using public resources for his campaign activities.
The meat of the accusations, summarized in a handout from the Reed campaign below, says that President of the Board of Public Service Richard Bradley used his city e-mail account, on city time, to solicit campaign donations for Slay's re-election bid. The Board of Public Service is made up of appointees of the mayor and is charged with signing contracts. And according to Reed's team, close to $32 million in "no bid" contracts -- when prices are negotiated after the fact -- were awarded to companies that have donated to Slay's campaign.
Slay and his staff have since vigorously denied that there was any wrongdoing other than Bradley's e-mail, which they say should not have come from the work account and was frowned upon, but not illegal.
Pushing the debate further, Burleigh responded Friday morning with a formal attack on the Slay response with a press email to reporters that said, in part:
After yesterday's press conference, where Pres. Reed presented the case that the Mayor's office has been using his appointees' no-bid contracting abilities to leverage campaign contributions, the Mayor's senior staff lied to the public. Jeff Rainford and Eddie Roth, [Slay's director of operations], while obviously struggling to come up with explanations made comments that range from outright lies to craven obfuscation.
Continue for response from Slay's office and for relevant documents in this case.
Burleigh focused in on the email, on view below, and argued that there are no circumstances in which it is legal for a fundraising e-mail to go through a government e-mail system sent from an employee.
"The Mayor's chief of staff went on camera and lied to the St. Louis press core, and, therefore, the entire city of St. Louis," Burleigh tells Daily RFT in a follow-up note.
This kind of back-and-forth has become the norm in the race, which has more frequently focused on these sorts of accusations against the opponent instead of campaign platforms or debates on issues. The Reed campaign has another press conference this morning about a new accusation against the Slay administration regarding a labor document.
Asked about the latest allegations from Reed -- that the mayor's senior staff lied to the press in response in their pay-to-play response -- Roth, the director of operations for Slay, tells Daily RFT that Bradley should not have used his city account for the campaign e-mail, but says that Reed's staff is misstating the facts here.
"The quote attributed to Jeff Rainford in what you heard from the Reed campaign is not something that Jeff said to the press yesterday. Use of city email is not permitted and...[its] use by Mr. Bradley was a mistake. There never has been a dispute about this," Roth says in an e-mail to Daily RFT on Friday. "That was made clear yesterday."
But the Reed camp was mistaken in regards to Bradley's status as an "expected employee," -- which means he is not subject to broad restrictions in political activity, says Roth, who passes along a Circuit Court decision from last year that states such.
Roth continues, "That does not mean Mr. Bradley's mistaken use of city email was ok. [It] was not ok. It shows that, unlike civil service employees, he is not generally restricted from engaging in political activities."
Who's telling the truth? We've collected the relevant documents below.
Continue for the full press release and other documents related to this dispute.
Here's the full Friday morning release from Burleigh.
Mayor's Senior Staffers Lie to the Public in Attempt to Cover Up Scandal
After yesterday's press conference, where Pres. Reed presented the case that the Mayor's office has been using his appointees' no-bid contracting abilities to leverage campaign contributions, the Mayor's senior staff lied to the public. Jeff Rainford and Eddie Roth, while obviously struggling to come up with explanations made comments that range from outright lies to craven obfuscation.
"They made the claim that a Slay appointee using the city email system(and on city time) was not illegal, simply frowned upon. This is outright untrue. Being an appointee does not allow city employees to participate in partisan electoral activities on city time, with city equipment, or using city accounts" said President Reed.
Per the civil service rule attached, people in competitive positions and excepted positions (appointees) cannot use their official title, office, official time or city facilities in a partisan campaign effort.
"Eddie Roth then went on to claim that the corruption allegations are far-fetched, because these contracts have to be approved by the Board of Public Service, which he attempted to characterize as an independent board. The truth is that all of the members of this board are Slay appointees, and they all answer directly to Jeff Rainford," said President Reed.
Per the sections of the City Charter attached, the members of the Board of Public Service are appointees of the Mayor and they answer to him and Jeff Rainford. It would take no great effort for someone to keep his employees quiet about something, especially when their job depended on it.
"Slay's appointee also violated state law, by using government facilities for fundraising and political purposes. But we all know that he is not deciding to do this stuff on his own. Someone is directing him," said Campaign Manager Glenn Burleigh.
"As the old saying goes, "it's not the crime, it's the coverup," and this is one of the most craven attempts I have ever witnessed. The taxpayers of our city deserve better than an administration whose two highest ranking employees are willing to lie to the public. When I am elected mayor, we will have the most transparent government in the history of St. Louis. We can do better, and, under my administration, we will," said President Reed.
"In the middle of his unhinged press conference, Jeff Rainford blamed the Slay administration's utter disregard for ethics on our "faltering campaign." Nothing could be further from the truth. We're picking up Northside, Central Corridor, and Southside ward endorsements, major labor endorsements, and are charging towards the finish line. On the other hand, Mayor Slay can't seem to outrun the scandals, and Jeff Rainford held a press conference where he couldn't even look the reporters in the eyes. I think Mr. Rainford has obvious issues with projection," said Burleigh.
Here's the email in question.
Here's the civil service rule that the Reed campaign says was clearly violated.
Here's the court decision that Slay's team says clarifies what restrictions Bradley faces.
And an outline of the original accusations from the Reed camp.