Press Release - St. Louis Police Officers Association
St. Louis Police Officers Association President Tom Walsh and Vice President Joe Steiger have filed three lawsuits challenging the ballot summary and fiscal note prepared for three different ballot initiatives that would authorize St. Louis City to take control of the St. Louis City Police Department. Two of the ballot initiatives would also allow St. Louis City to take control of police officers’ pension fund.
The lawsuits challenge the ballot summaries prepared by Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. The suits allege that all the ballot summaries misstate current law by stating the St. Louis City police force and its pension fund are controlled by the state of Missouri. The police force and its pension fund are actually controlled by two separate and independent boards, the St. Louis City Board of Police Commissioners and the Police Retirement System of St. Louis. One of the ballot summaries does not described what effects the proposal will have on police officers’ pension fund. None of the ballot summaries describe all the new, additional powers that will be granted to St. Louis City and its Board of Aldermen if the city chooses to take over the police force and its pension fund.
The suits also challenge the fiscal notes prepared by Missouri State Auditor for these ballot proposals. Under state law, Auditor Montee is responsible for preparing a fiscal note which is supposed to state the costs or savings of a measure to state and local governmental entities. The fiscal notes prepared for these ballot proposals grossly overestimate the savings to the state and St. Louis City that could result from these proposals. The fiscal notes do not consider actual state expenditures on the St. Louis City police force and instead focus on “potential” savings. The fiscal notes also ignore costs that would be shifted from the state to St. Louis City. These costs could include approximately $500,000 that is currently covered by the state Legal Expense Fund.
The lawsuits also challenge the process through which Secretary Carnahan and Auditor Montee prepared the ballot summaries and fiscal notes. The suits allege that these state officials do not provide public notice that they were preparing the ballot summary or fiscal note. Because of the lack of public notice, opponents of the ballot proposal did not have the opportunity to comment on the ballot summaries or provide cost and savings information for inclusion in the fiscal notes as authorized by law.
The cases are Walsh and Steiger v. Carnahan and Montee. They are pending in Cole County Circuit Court where state law mandates these types of lawsuit be filed. The SLPOA is represented by the Stinson Morrison Hecker law firm, which has extensive experience litigating initiative petition cases.