St. Louis County Council member Mark Harder (R-District 7), on June 14, introduced a resolution requesting the state auditor’s office perform an audit of the programs the county executive established in 2020 for the purpose of disbursing CARES Act monies following the indictment of a former county jail employee who allegedly attempted to defraud the county’s Small Business Relief (SBR) Program.
However, he asked to hold off on voting on the resolution until a later date.
“I’ve been having discussions with both the state auditor’s office and the federal government. They’re very interested in this issue, but we’re not there yet, so I’m going to hold this for now,” Harder said.
Federal prosecutors say Anthony “Tony” Weaver Sr., the former “change management coordinator” at the county jail, allegedly hatched a scheme to fraudulently obtain SBR funds for a local businessman in exchange for a share of the proceeds. The SBR program used federal CARES Act money to help small businesses that were closed during the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.
County Executive Dr. Sam Page told the council on June 7 that he had fired Weaver earlier that day, and Weaver was stripped of access to email and entry into all county buildings. Page further said the indictments are not related to Weaver’s work in justice services, and the controls his administration put in place for the distribution of the council’s SBR funds prevented any theft of taxpayer funds. Weaver previously served as the administrative assistant to former county council member Rochelle Walton Gray (D-District 4), and was hired by Page’s administration in 2020, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.
At the June 7 council meeting, Page and council member Tim Fitch (R- District 3) butted heads over a statement made by Page’s spokesman Doug Moore in reference to the indictment (see “Audit sought after former County employee indicted in alleged relief fund scheme” on westnewsmagazine.com for additional details).
On June 14, Fitch and Page argued again – this time over federal subpoenas.
Fitch said he sent a letter to Page regarding questions he asked county counselor Beth Orwick about federal subpoenas that may have been delivered to the county related to federal investigations as of Jan. 1, 2020. The letter was dated June 11.
As of the June 14 meeting, Fitch said he had not received a response from Page. He asked the county executive if he planned on providing one.
“My letter to the U.S. attorney was my response,” Page replied. “These subpoenas aren’t about me, and, as far as I know, they’re not about you, and that should be a relief.”
Page’s letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith, dated June 13, can be found in its entirety on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s website. It does not name Fitch, but refers to a council member’s requests for information regarding the course and scope of federal criminal investigations and “your office’s work in particular.”
Page said the council member, while employed within the St. Louis County Police Department, was “notorious for manipulating both local and federal law enforcement to support his political goals … I was troubled to learn the councilman was now apparently attempting to interfere with a federal investigation,” Page wrote.
Page asked Fitch if he received a subpoena. Fitch said no.
“Then you should be reassured,” Page said. “The investigation that was outlined in the indictment is about a former county employee’s attempt to influence the council’s SBR program in two districts, which, at least, as for now, appears to be unsuccessful. I’m sure the U.S. Attorney will continue his investigation.”
Fitch said he appreciated Page admitting the county received subpoenas, as Orwick told him the records are closed.
Page continued, saying, “We did receive a response from Hal Goldsmith today, and he did recognize that we could now say that we had received subpoenas and there was a federal investigation.”
In regard to sharing those subpoenas with the council, Page said Goldsmith recommended Orwick follow the state statute. Fitch asked Orwick to elaborate on what that is.
“I responded to you previously that the records are closed, and I’ll stand by that,” Orwick told Fitch.
Fitch asked if Orwick treated his inquiry as a Sunshine request. She said she did.
“So it’s closed to the council and to the public, but did the county executive get all of that information that we are not going to get?” he asked.
“I’m not going to go any further,” Orwick replied. “I would require legal analysis. I’m happy to look at that analysis with you offline. Not at a public meeting.”
Still, Fitch pressed Page about what he knew of the investigation. Page said the only people who know about the investigation are those with the U.S. attorney’s office.
“We know what we read in the indictment,” Page said. “I read the same indictment that you did.”