As a kid, St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch's dad warned him that folks might poke fun at his last name. So he is thus not too bothered by Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan's latest piece, which is structured as a memo to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley with "Subject: Life's a Fitch." ("From: William "Swifty" McClellan, Public Relations Consultant").
"Well played Bill, well played," Fitch writes in a chatty blog post he published last night he titled "P.S. to Bill McClellan."
The meat of his post, however, is not quite so goofy. Fitch -- addressing the controversy surrounding the county's controversial crime lab contract -- writes that he is being targeted by political researchers who are trying to dig up a scandal on him.
This dustup comes on the heels of a federal subpoena for records surrounding a crime lab construction contract that has sparked conflict-of-interest allegations.
Fitch has raised concerns about the appropriateness of SM Mechanical, a company co-owned by Gregory Sansone, chairman of the St. Louis County Police Board, receiving a $3.7 million contract tied to the police headquarters project.
Sansone recently resigned amid the FBI investigation into this arrangement.
McClellan's column, "Cleaning up Charlie Dooley's public relations mess," criticizes Dooley over a range of potential conflicts-of-interest and ends with this commentary on the chief:
Meanwhile, you say nice things about the chief. He's got your support. You're glad that he went to the feds. If there's something crooked going on, you want it stopped. Truth is, you're grateful to the chief.
It might be tough to say some of these things, Charlie, but hey, life's a Fitch.
In his post, Fitch recalls a 2009 controversy surrounding Police Chief Jerry Lee, his predecessor who stepped down amid intense scrutiny from critics.
Fitch alleges that he has already faced shady opposition in the past when he called for a county-wide vote to ban speed cameras. Those who felt threatened, he says, "hired a political research company to review my taxes, work expenditures and anything else they could find to discredit me or the police department. Those who actually hired the research company would never ask for the records themselves. They hide behind a political research company, so nobody will know who's paying them. That's how this stuff works."
And now, he alleges, it's happening again:
More requests last week for my travel records, expenses, etc. The people doing it this time should get with the political researcher from last year and compare notes. It will save county government employees a lot of time. If they can't successfully find some scandal about me, they will do their best to find misdeeds of my family and/or the 1,100 employees who belong to the county police family. I wish them all the luck in the world.
But Fitch says he can withstand the scrutiny.
Here's the chief's blog post in full:
P.S. to Bill McClellan Hopefully you had a chance to read Bill McClellan's column today in the Post-Dispatch. Even as kids, my dad told us that people will have a good time with our last name and the word it rhymes with. Well played Bill, well played.
At any rate, you might guess that those who feel threatened by this whole situation aren't just going to sit back and see what happens. I had a front row seat when they went after Chief Jerry Lee. I've seen this movie. Back then, they also went after the employees in the police department. Suddenly, our requests for training and travel were being denied. Officer misconduct was being purposely leaked. The price you pay for speaking out. Chief Lee is a decent and honorable man, but he knew he had to give in so they wouldn't continue to interfere with the operations and reputation of his department.
My own experience of how this works is when I became vocal about speed cameras. Those who felt threatened when I called for a county-wide vote to ban the cameras hired a political research company to review my taxes, work expenditures and anything else they could find to discredit me or the police department. Those who actually hired the research company would never ask for the records themselves. They hide behind a political research company, so nobody will know who's paying them. That's how this stuff works.
The best they could come up with is the fact that I promoted several officers who were named in a 2008 lawsuit that the county counselor's office settled out of court for $46,000. This was a case where it was alleged that the officers used force and the suspect died. Really? Do you think if the officers actually caused a death, any plaintiff's lawyer would have settled for $46,000?
The political researcher wrote his own news story about the lawsuit and promotions and anonymously mailed it to the Post-Dispatch, along with a "rumor" that I was contemplating running for county executive. Good one. That's the best he could come up with? The political consultant is a former Post-Dispatch reporter and is known for his skill in research. Somebody was paying him good money to find dirt on me. He paid $250 just for my travel records. You haven't seen a story about my travel records, so one can assume I didn't go to Hawaii on the county's dime.
So, here we go again. More requests last week for my travel records, expenses, etc. The people doing it this time should get with the political researcher from last year and compare notes. It will save county government employees a lot of time. If they can't successfully find some scandal about me, they will do their best to find misdeeds of my family and/or the 1,100 employees who belong to the county police family. I wish them all the luck in the world.
Here's some news for them; we are not perfect, but neither are they. We can withstand the scrutiny. This is a dirty game, but it's the only way they know how to play it. They go after those who are disloyal or threaten the status quo. You can bet that I'll keep you posted as the games continue.
In the meantime, you can count on us to continue to work hard to keep our community safe and serve the needs of our citizens. Thank you for your support!
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.