MOVING LIKE AN OIL SLICK
Aldermanic President Francis Slay says the timing of a settlement in the Exxon Valdez case wonÕt be a factor in his decision on a mayoral run
By D.J. Wilson
Maybe all the talk will die down "within the next couple of months," when Aldermanic President Francis Slay says he'll make a public announcement as to whether he'll run for mayor in 2001. One matter Slay says won't affect his decision about whether to run against incumbent Mayor Clarence Harmon is the settlement of the lawsuit related to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. Loose lips in this case, not sinking ships have been saying that Slay might not run because if he became mayor, he'd be forced to resign from his law firm and wouldn't share in the payout on the settlement. Slay has been involved in the suit for years, even going to Seattle in May for oral arguments.
"It won't affect my decision to run," Slay says. If the settlement comes down before the 2001 election, there's no complication. The only way Slay might have difficulty collecting his part of the settlement is if it were to come after he resigned from the law firm of Guilfoil, Petzall & Shoemake on becoming mayor. He would only be required to do that if he won the primary and general elections for mayor in spring 2001. Slay expects a settlement of the case before that time. If Slay runs and loses, he doesn't have to leave his firm. And, of course, if he doesn't run, he can stay with his private practice.
What might affect his decision, Slay says, is the chance of leaving law behind. "I enjoy the practice of law," he says. "Whatever decision I make, that will be included in my decision-making, that I really enjoy doing that. But that one case won't make any difference." Plus, the amount of his share of the settlement is uncertain. "It could be zero," he says. As for politics, people keep talking about his running for mayor. If he and Harmon battle over vote-heavy South St. Louis, could a North St. Louis-based candidate surface and be a factor? Does Slay have assurances that this won't happen? Would North St. Louis voters support Slay just to spite Harmon? The questions linger, and Slay knows it.
"It's a constant topic of conversation, no question about it, on a daily basis with me," says Slay. "There's time left. But I expect that there will be an announcement within the next couple of months, just so we can put whatever speculation there is behind us."