Adding to the intrigue surrounding the contract is Rex Sinquefield's ties to both Slay and Temporiti. Sinquefield's political-action committee is Slay's top donor, haven already given the campaign $100,000. Sinquefield has also dropped big cash with Temporiti, $92,500 in consulting fees over the course of the past election season. Just last week Temporiti officially registered as a lobbyist for Sinquefield's political firm Pelopidas and Veolia Water North America.

At the conclusion of the forum Slay moves toward the door, shaking hands along the way. A "Dump Veolia" activist tries to hand him a flier about the tram lines and buses in Palestine. Slay declines politely.

"I've seen your material," he says. "I get it. I get it."

Mayor Slay and his challenger, Lewis Reed (far right), discussed Veolia during a January mayoral debate.
Theo R. Welling
Mayor Slay and his challenger, Lewis Reed (far right), discussed Veolia during a January mayoral debate.

At the door, Riverfront Times asks about the rumor that Curt Skouby was directed by the mayor's office to vote for Veolia.

"That is absolutely not true," he says. "I've heard more misinformation and more ridiculous accusations on this issue than I have on a whole heck of a lot of other ones since I've been mayor."

He bristles at the idea that Temporiti gave Veolia an advantage and says this is just an attempt to discredit him ahead of the election.

"I don't represent Veolia. I don't represent any special interest. I represent the people of St. Louis," he says. "I'm interested in three things: quality water, a good department that's well run and for a price that is affordable for the people of St. Louis. That's all I'm interested in."

Finally, Riverfront Times asks about the private meeting with Temporiti after the Veolia presentation — a meeting Temporiti claimed had nothing to do with Veolia.

"There's a lot of misinformation he's trying to dispel, and that's what we talked about," says Slay. "We talked about the fact that, you know, about what kind of information is out there and, you know, how do we address it and what's going on. That's all."

The future of the contract is still unknown. Lewis Reed's office has taken steps toward a public forum — which will invite all activist groups to participate as well as Veolia — but the time frame is still fluid. Eddie Roth is also meeting with all the interested parties.

"My instructions are to take all the time we need to make people feel satisfied," says Roth. "We'll come back in a very public way with what I'm able to find out."

It is all but certain that any kind of investigation or final determination will not be ready in time for the next scheduled Board of Estimate and Apportionment meeting on February 20. That means the next opportunity to take up the contract will come after the mayoral election.

Should Reed pull off the underdog upset and stick to his campaign promises, Veolia's prospects are down the drain. But with Green the deciding vote on the E&A Board, even a Slay win doesn't secure the company's fortunes.

In the deluge of ambition and politics, it's hard to parse out what's truly at stake — the water, the utility, the mayorship or the more abstract moral standing of the city.

"Our responsibilities aren't to litigate or adjudicate some sort of broader political issues," says Roth. "I'm glad people are interested in turning on the tap and getting clean, delicious, cold water at an affordable price. That's what we're all after."

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