ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley is denying allegations made public in a now-withdrawn whistleblower’s lawsuit that claimed Dooley conspired with the Metro transit agency in a “phony” real estate deal involving $5.9 million in taxpayer money.
The sealed lawsuit was filed last fall by a high-ranking Metro transit agency engineer. The complaint became public earlier this month when the federal government declined to join the case and the whistleblower withdrew his suit.
The suit claimed that Dooley was involved in a scheme in which Metro purchased a parking garage at Hanley and highway 40 from a real estate developer for $5.8 million. The suit claimed the same developer had personally donated $25,000 to a campaign promoting a tax increase for Metro on the county ballot. According to the suit, St. Louis County reimbursed Metro $5.9 million for the garage purchase the month after the deal closed.
“This was not a coincidence,” the suit claimed.
KMOX made repeated attempts to reach Dooley on Friday for an interview. He was not available. Dooley’s spokesman Mac Scott said Dooley was denying all the allegations. Scott was asked about the “phony” real estate deal allegation in particular.
“He absolutely, categorically denies that that happened,” Scott said, “That is a complete falsehood.”
Metro President and CEO John Nations is also refuting allegations that the garage deal was improper.
“There was absolutely no conspiracy involved,” Nations said, “The price paid for it was fair and reasonable.”
Purchasing parking properties near Metro stations is part of Metro’s business model, Nations said.
Nations was asked about the alleged link between the $5.8 million Metro spent for the garage and the $5.9 million St. Louis County paid Metro the next month.
“Well, I can’t help the similarity of the figures, except to say that if you look at those figures over time, that’s what the sales tax in St. Louis County produces,” Nations said.
Dooley spokesman Scott also noted that sales tax payments to Metro from the county are “generally in the five-to-six million range” every month.
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan was asked to comment on the allegations in the whistleblower’s suit of political corruption influencing Metro.
“The only thing I can tell you is after a review by the Inspector General, the Department of Transportation, along with main justice (DOJ) and our office, we have declined to join in the lawsuit,” Callahan said.
Read more about the suit in our earlier version of the story: