Wednesday, August 16, 2017

St. Louis Comptroller Fires Back After Getting Sued by the Blues

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 12:22 PM

click to enlarge City Comptroller Darlene Green.
  • City Comptroller Darlene Green.
The owners of the St. Louis Blues want a judge to order City Comptroller Darlene Green to start the process of gifting them $64 million in city funds — but Green is holding her ground.

This morning, Green issued a statement saying that she believes she has "broad authority" to protect the city's credit rating — and that the earmark, while approved by the city's Board of Aldermen, would do too much damage to the city's financial standing.

Green, who is elected, noted that under the city charter, one of her duties is to "preserve the credit of the city."

In her statement, she says she's trying to do just that:

Comptroller Green has made clear she would work with the Kiel Center Partners and other officials to find an alternate financing strategy—one that would not draw upon the city’s general fund and take money away from essential city services or harm the city’s credit.

At a time when everyone knew the City of St. Louis had to make compromises on its 2018 budget in order to meet a revenue shortfall and citizens are being asked to pay an additional $3 a month for trash pickup and to pay more taxes for police raises, it behooves all to focus on the needs of the citizens.
In a previous statement last week, Green noted that the city's credit has been downgraded twice in the last six months, leading to what she believes is a "credit crisis." Green says she made it clear to the Blues' owners in January that any incentive packages must not incur more obligations on the city's general fund.

The comptroller's position places the Blues owners in a strange spot. They managed to persuade the city's Board of Aldermen to push through a package last fall to fund renovations at Scottrade Center — a $64 million expense that will grow to $105 million once the cost of interest is included. But they can't get the funds unless Green signs the agreement, thereby allowing the city to sell bonds for the project.

Just last week, the plan that once seemed like a done deal suffered another roadblock — a lawsuit arguing that the earmark represents an unconstitutional "gift" to the Blues' owners. That suit, whose plaintiffs include Alderwoman Cara Spencer and the city counselor at the time the Blues' lease on Scottrade was negotiated, notes that the lease states that the team's owners were to be responsible for all maintenance on the arena.

The city counselor will be defending the earmark in that one — raising the question of whether he can also defend Green in this suit. A spokesman for Green says it is not yet clear how that potential conflict can be managed.

The Blues' lawsuit was filed by Kiel Center Partners LP and assigned to St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert H. Dierker Jr. The Blues' owners have already asked for a new judge to handle the case, though Dierker has not yet ruled on that request.

Indeed, the case doesn't seem to be on a particularly fast track: Green has been ordered to respond by September 15.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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