ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Former Metro CEO Larry Salci says he was pressured more than once by St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley’s office to give extra consideration to politically connected contractors .
Commenting on the now-withdrawn whistle blower’s suit, Salci was asked whether the alleged political meddling with Metro contracts amounted to a criminal wrongdoing.
“That’s not for me to decide,” Salci said, “I leave that to the lawyers.”
The suit, filed by a Metro insider was dropped, when the U-S Attorney looked at the evidence and decided not to join the suit.
Among the examples of meddling, Salci says he was lobbied by Dooley’s transportation aide Tom Curran to enter into a $19 million no-bid contract with developer Don Musick to build a ten-story garage at Hanley and Eager Road in Brentwood.
“He said, look, you need to understand Musick is important to the community. He’s an important developer,” Salci said.
Curran has acknowledged talking to Salci, but denied making any threats, according to media reports.
Salci says he objected to Musick’s price of delivering a garage that would cost $15,000 per space, compared to the North Hanley garage that cost $9,000 per space or the Clayton garage at Shaw Drive that cost $8,900 per space.
At the same time, Salci was battling contractors who were behind schedule on the Metrolink expansion. That’s when he says Dooley’s then-chief of Staff John Temporiti invited Salci out for dinner at Al’s steak house.”The message was clear,” Salci said, “This is St. Louis county where 80-percent of the funding for this project and Metro comes from. You’re doing things that we don’t like. Your defaulting contractors. You’re not consulting with us. You’re filing lawsuits. You haven’t done deals with people we want to see deals done with. And the bottom line was we expect you to take direction from us.”
KMOX left a message with Temporiti seeking comment. Dooley’s office last week issued a statement denying any wrongdoing alleged in the lawsuit.
Salci also complained that the ten-member metro board was half-filled with political appointees who turned their meetings into a “circus” bogged down by “self-serving politics.” Fed up with board members walking out of meetings, Salci says he called a meeting in April 2004 to air his concerns with Dooley, Mayor Slay and then-St. Clair County Board Chairman John Baricevic.
“The meeting was a disaster, frankly, because Charlie (Dooley) basically just exploded at me frankly. He was very upset,” Salci said, “He was just upset that I had even called this meeting. I said these people are walking out of meetings. I can’t conduct business. They’re stopping quorums. And I said, It’s become very dysfunctional, and it’s an embarrassment to the community. And Dooley basically challenged me and said these are my commissioners. How dare you bring me down to a meeting and tell me about my commissioners.”
Salci declined to comment on other allegations in the whistle blower suit dealing with safety concerns at Metro. The U-S Attorney says it has confidence the system is safe based on an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
KMOX has been seeking an interview with an investigator for DOT familiar with the probe. So far, none has been made available.