St. Louis Aldermen Push for Transparency, While Ethical Questions Emerge
ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard left the council chambers heading for elevator, indignant that a reporter was asking whether her sponsorship of a bill benefiting developer Paul McKee amounted to a conflict of interest. At issue was reports that her father works for a non-profit housing agency partnered with McKee.
“There’s nothing illegal about it, and it’s making me think that racism plays a big part in it,” Hubbard said, “I mean he works for Carr Square. He does not own anything in Carr Square.”
The city hall elevator was slow again, so Hubbard took the stairs, adding as she descended that she “doesn’t need to talk to the media, only her constituents.”
Hubbard’s remarks came as the board of aldermen is considering a bill that would broaden the definition of what amounts to a conflict of interest.
Sponsoring Alderman Scott Ogilvie, who shares a cramped, two-desk office with Hubbard, says aldermen should be forced to point out when they’re pushing legislation that could benefit them or someone close to them.
“You either disclose what those relationships are, or you don’t participate in sponsoring, voting on or discussing the bill,” Ogilvie said, “You abstain from working on the bill.”
Under Ogilvie’s plan, a conflict of interest would include anything that benefits “the alderman, a spouse, an alderman’s children, siblings or parents.”
Using himself as an example, Ogilvie says he has a brother managing a popular restaurant in Chicago that he would like to see him open a restaurant in St. Louis.
“If there’s an incentive package, I don’t think I should be the one to introduce that bill, and I’m perfectly OK with that,” Ogilvie said.
The bill is co-sponsored by Aldermen Shane Cohn and Antonio French.
KMOX asked French if his work as a political consultant could pose a conflict of interest.
In the past, French says he has worked as a paid consultant for Aldermanic President Lewis Reed — and may be called to provide more services, if Reed runs for Mayor.
If Reed were to hire French again as a political consultant, and French were to speak glowingly of a Reed proposal on the floor of the board, would that be a conflict of interest?
“Yeah, I probably wouldn’t do that,” French said. “We’d consult with our attorney.”
Veteran Alderman Steve Conway says he likes the spirit of Ogilvie’s bill.
“You don’t want the public to feel uncomfortable with the dealings of the elected officials,” Conway said.
The proposal was introduced Friday and has not yet been scheduled for committee debate.