No Mercy for Percy

The mayor answers critics by giving Green the boot

Pinela, for one, is enthusiastic about the change. "This is something that is really good for the Hispanic minority," he says. "For the longest time, we've been excluded from city business."

And yet there's a bit of irony in Slay's decision to put the consolidated certification program under Griggs, a public official who has previously taken his lumps for giving too little business to minority-owned firms. The city of St. Louis follows a "short-listing" process for awarding contracts. Instead of seeking bids from everyone who can provide the needed service or product, the city asks three to five companies to provide bids. At the airport, Griggs traditionally decides who to ask for bids and then a committee appointed by the president of the Board of Public Service picks the winner from among those bidders. Hence, critics say, it helps to be someone Griggs knows and likes.

The Bosley administration claimed Griggs' choices were consistently too narrow. As part of its lengthy struggle to wrest control of airport contracting from Griggs, the Bosley administration put Kwame Building Group into position at the airport to serve as its eyes and ears.

Percy Green
Jennifer Silverberg
Percy Green

That move led to a series of Post-Dispatch articles by reporter Carolyn Tuft that characterized the contract to Kwame as "cronyism." The articles and editorials, which painted a picture of a seemingly corrupt administration, paved the way for Bosley's loss in 1997 to Harmon. In that instance, Griggs emerged a winner, coming out of Bosley's defeat with uncontested control of airport contracts.

Earlier this year, another Post series, again by Tuft, reported Bosley and Person's involvement in United Materials, a concrete contracting firm whose application for city certification was pending. Slay responded to the Post coverage by promising a close look at the city program. Now, with Slay's reorganization, Griggs again appears to be a winner, as his influence spreads beyond the airport into all city contracts.

And what about Green, a local legend for his flamboyant 1960s protests that included scaling the Arch and unmasking the Veiled Prophet? Geisman says that Green would still have a job if he "had spent more time focused on certification business and less on other things."

Why some of that time couldn't have been spent discussing problems with the program with the mayor is unclear. Green says he asked Slay for a meeting, but the mayor directed him to instead speak with Geisman and SLDC executive director Phil Hoge.

"I felt Slay would give me an opportunity to share with him exactly what was handicapping the program," Green says. "I never met with him face-to-face."

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