Thursday, September 22, 2011

Alderman Fred Wessels Vows to Clean Up St. Louis Treasurer's Office

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2011 at 1:13 PM

click to enlarge Larry Williams hasn't updated his City Hall mugshot since the early '80s.
  • Larry Williams hasn't updated his City Hall mugshot since the early '80s.
St. Louis' longtime treasurer, Larry Williams, is on the hot seat after one of his employees was indicted on charges last week that he bilked the city for $175,000 worth of work that federal prosecutors say he never performed.

Williams, in office since 1981, has remained mum on the issue, saying that he can't comment on ongoing litigation. But that hasn't stopped one of his City Hall colleagues from teeing off on the treasurer.

This week Alderman Fred Wessels (Ward 13) announced his intention to unseat Williams in the August 2012 Democratic primary. Wessels, himself no newcomer to City Hall, tells Daily RFT that the current scandal is just the latest in the more than twenty years of frustration he's had with the treasurer's office. 

"In 1988 a state audit found that the over $20,000 was missing from a $100,000 miscellaneous cash account that the treasurer's office allowed employees to cash checks against," says Wessels. "Forty-seven of the checks were from Williams and his family and approximately $15,000 worth of those bounced."

In 1989 Wessels sponsored and passed two bills that reduced the cash account to $5,000 and prohibited treasurer's office employees from cashing checks against the fund. Wessels says other legislation he's sponsored to reform the treasurer's office haven't passed. Though that hasn't stopped Wessels from giving Williams an honorary "Golden Fleece" award.

(A recent audit of the treasurer's office found that 43 of the 200 employees were related to each other.)

  • Wessels
Particularly galling, says Wessels, is how little money makes its way from the city's Parking Division to the city's general revenue fund. The Parking Division is under the control of the treasurer's office. Wessels says his accounting shows that the Parking Division has taken in $120 million from parking meters, parking lots and parking tickets in the past ten years yet only paid the city $3.5 million.

Wessels says that if elected he promises to:
• Eliminate costly no-bid consultant contracts
• Properly document investment decisions
• Create a formal policy for the selection of professional services

Oh, and Wessels promises Daily RFT that if elected he'll also update the photo on file with the city every couple of years -- something that Williams hasn't done since coming into office in 1981.

In other news, today Williams announced that he will seek re-election.

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