Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Does the 1993 Comptroller's Race Scandal Have to Do With the 2012 Treasurer's Race?

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Brian Wahby - IMAGE VIA
St. Louis feels like a small town sometimes, ripe with recurring names and intertwined narratives.The city's political dynamics tend to showcase this phenomenon very effectively. Latest exhibit: this year's race for city treasurer.

For context, let's go to a 1999 Riverfront Times feature story about treasurer Larry Williams, the current incumbent. Reporter D.J. Wilson describes a scandal involving the "'stalking horse' candidacy of Penny Alcott in the 1993 comptroller's election:

Steve Baker, an assistant city treasurer under Williams, pleaded guilty to mail fraud in connection with Alcott's candidacy. [Incumbent Virvus] Jones defeated Ald. Jim Shrewsbury (D-16th), 44,670 votes to 42,661 votes. Alcott received 3,268 votes. Part of the investigation of Jones was related to the allegation that Alcott was talked into the race to split the South St. Louis [white] vote, thereby helping Jones. During the trial, Alcott testified that Williams' executive assistant, Brian Wahby, gave her the $725 filing fee she used to file for comptroller and later gave her money for expenses, including clothes and health insurance.

Baker admitted during testimony that he had falsified campaign-disclosure reports, hiding a transfer of funds from Jones' campaign to Alcott. He also testified that Alcott "was never intended to be a viable candidate" and that Alcott "was intended to take votes away from Jim Shrewsbury."

Baker pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to a $4,000 fine and two years' probation. Wahby got off scott-free.

Wahby is now running for treasurer. So is Virvus Jones' daughter, state Rep. Tishaura Jones. And in what is either a Shakespearean (incidental) or Machiavellian (cynical) twist, Jones might end up splitting the north St. Louis (black) vote with 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, the candidate who has raised the most money so far. (13th Ward Alderman Fred Wessels rounds out the field.)

So a quick re-cap of the facts: nineteen years after Brian Wahby allegedly paid a candidate to siphon votes away from Virvus Jones' opponent, Virvus Jones' daughter is in a position to siphon votes away from Brian Wahby's opponent.

Small town, huh?

For more on St. Louis politics, boxing, hip-hop and miscellaneous social issues, follow @albertsamaha on Twitter.

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