Sharon Carpenter: Feathering Her Own Nest

Sharon Quigley Carpenter resigned as St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds because she hired her great-nephew three times in violation of the Missouri Constitution’s anti-nepotism provision. Hiring family, however, was not the only way she used her office to further herself and her family. Carpenter spent the Recorder’s Preservation and Technology Account, public money, and the Carpenter for Recorder account, her campaign money, as if they were her personal funds, both in violation of state law.

oct2001Sharon Carpenter Took Vacations With Her City Issued Vehicle. Example: In 2001, the June 16-20 trip to Billings, Montana, for the IACREOT Conference, paid for with public funds, was extended another four days for sightseeing in Wyoming and South Dakota, with Carpenter for Recorder picking up some of the vacation tab, including maps. 

Sharon Carpenter Used Public Funds To Restore Her St. Louis Statue . There was a statue of St. Louis, the City’s namesake, donated to the Recorder’s office or to Carpenter, not sure which, housed in the Recorder’s private office. Louie was about three feet tall. He was ceramic religious statuary similar to the kind you might see in Catholic church or institution. Louie is no longer in the office. I am assuming he went home with Carpenter when she resigned. Thing is, Carpenter had the St. Louis statue professionally restored with public monies. The project was paid for by the Recorder’s Preservation Account.

Sharon Carpenter Used Public Funds To Buy Her Family’s Genealogy Books. The Recorder’s Preservation Account was also used to buy several hardbound copies of “Donegal Ireland McDermott’s: Mary, Sarah, Jane, Patrick, James; Pioneer Settlers, Franklin County, Missouri” by Elizabeth J. McDermott. There is a copy at the Recorder’s Office, located in the Archives Department. The rest are gone.

ramconfSharon Carpenter Booked A Conference At Her Daughter’s Hotel: The 2001 Recorders Association of Missouri Conference was held in St. Louis City at the Chase Park Plaza because Carpenter’s daughter worked there. A tab of $2,134 for hotel room and food was paid for with the Recorder’s Preservation and Technology Account.

Sharon Carpenter Used Campaign Funds To Buy Flowers From Family. Carpenter for Recorder paid most of her florist bills- funeral flowers, birthday gifts, Christmas Poinsettia, event decorations for the campaign. They went to political colleagues, personal friends, and family. During the bulk of her Recorder career, those flowers came from Quigley’s Florist on Arsenal, the family business started by her mother in 1965. Missouri Ethics Commission online campaign finance records begin with the January 1999 reports. From December 1998 to June 1999, Carpenter for Recorder spent $632.oo at Quigley’s Florist.

The business was dissolved in November 1999 by Carpenter’s sister.  The sister then went to work at Always in Bloom. From October 1999 to May 2014, Carpenter for Recorder spent at least $5,876.22 at Always in Bloom. Carpenter’s sister did not work there the entire period but I am not certain when she stopped.

Carpenter for Recorder quit purchasing Christmas Poinsettia from florists when a grandchild started school. The Committee spent a total of $985.50 in years 2008, 2009, and 2013 for poinsettia purchased from a grandchild’s school in Affton.

Sharon Carpenter Used Campaign Funds For Her Family’s Participation in St. Patrick’s Day Parade. When her extended family participates in the Ancient Order of Hibernian’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dogtown, they do it as a “clan” not as a politician running for office. Parade Rule: “Absolutely no political/commercial advertising of any kind will be allowed.” Between 2006 and 2012, Carpenter for Recorder spent $1778.87 on St. Patrick’s Day clan shirts, throw beads, and even the parade fee one year, for her family’s annual participation in the area’s biggest Irish heritage celebration.

03/16/2006 $285.87 for “purchase St. Patrick’s Day shirts” from Empire Design and $84.73 for “St. Patrick’s Day supplies”
03/13/2007 $169.45 for “St. Patrick’s Day Parade” beads from American Carnival Mart
o3/14/2008 $211.02 for “St. Patrick’s Day Decorations” from American Carnival Mart
03/06/2009 $211.02 for “parade beads” from American Carnival Mart
03/12/2009 $170.00 for “Parade Registration” to St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee
03/09/2010 $211.51 for beads from American Carnival Mart
03/16/2012 $520 for “campaign shirts” from Empire Design, obviously mislabeled

Sharon Carpenter Used Campaign Funds For Cardinals Tickets. 10/01/2005 $1432.00 Cardinals Tickets. 07/02/2009 $470 for All Star Game Tickets.

Sharon Carpenter Used Recorder Staff And Equipment To Plan Her Children’s Weddings And Other Events: List Making. Addressing Invitations. Catering Inquiries. Designing programs. Weddings. Birthday Parties. Carpenter’s “Stew & Brew” for neighbors. You name it, Recorder employees did it.

– Marie Ceselski

 

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Next Time Joe Vaccaro Gripes About Democrats Supporting Independent Democrat Candidate Jennifer Florida

When Joe Vaccaro, the 23 Ward Alderman and Sharon Quigley Carpenter’s campaign manager, gripes about Democrats breaking ranks and supporting Jennifer Florida for Recorder of Deeds, remind him that in 1995 he was the Independent pro-life, anti-Section 8, anti-apartment candidate for 23rd Ward Alderman. joe6 joe1 joe2 joe3 joe4
UPDATED 10/20/2014: Joe Vaccaro also ran as an Independent candidate for 23rd Ward Alderman in 2004.

– Marie Ceselski

Sharon Carpenter Is Not A Progressive

Some people think Sharon Quigley Carpenter, former St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds, is a Liberal or a Progressive because of her issuance of four marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. She’s not.

Sharon Quigley Carpenter Believes Open Carry Could Be Good For The Economy: In 2003, when the Missouri General Assembly legalized  concealed weapons, was when Carpenter first said that the problem was the “concealed” part. She said that if people were going to carry guns, it should be done in the open.

Carpenter believed “open carry” would be an opportunity. St. Louis City could be become the Fashion Capitol of Holsters and other open carry accessories.

Carpenter brought this up in conversations with me on at least four occasions between 2003 and 2013. Recorder employees had buried loved ones, including young ones, killed by guns. It was, by my thinking, so inappropriate to joke about enabling more guns in St. Louis.

Sharon Quigley Carpenter Supports Exemptions From Obamacare Contraceptive Mandates. In August 2011, Carpenter responded to news of contraceptive mandates for the Affordable Care Act by drafting a letter to U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill. I was in her private office for about twenty minutes while she was drafting it on a legal pad. She was very emotional and said she would leave the Democratic Party if religious exemptions were not authorized. The letter was typed by another staffer. I do not know if it was mailed.

St. Louis City Hall's Joplin Tornado Relief Efforts_Page_1Sharon Quigley Carpenter Took Funds Raised By Her Employees For Joplin Tornado Relief And Gave It To A Pro-Life Organization: In 2011, following the devastating tornado in Joplin, Recorder employees began raising funds and collecting supplies for survivors. The relief efforts of College Heights Christian Church and Children’s Haven of Southwest Missouri were the designated charities. But, in Carpenter’s mind, funds raised by her employees belonged to her. Later, we found out that some of the money had been given to LifeChoices, a “crisis pregnancy” center. This led to some of us only writing checks for office charity drives instead of giving cash.

As for her history on marriage equality, see Sharon Carpenter Is Not The Patron Saint Of Marriage Equality.

– Marie Ceselski

Sharon Carpenter’s Indentured Servants: Part I

Raises and promotions in the St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds Office were based on personal relationships between employees and Sharon Quigley Carpenter, the Recorder, as well as Peggy Meeker, the Chief Deputy Recorder.

Carpenter believed that raises and promotions were hers to give as she saw fit, unfettered by laws or moral obligation to treat employees fairly. Meeker’s job was to remind employees how much they owed Carpenter and cultivate the lie that employees would lose their jobs if Carpenter were not re-elected.

Recorder employees worked hard to earn their checks but the “earned” part was a foreign concept to both Carpenter and Meeker. Carpenter saw herself as a benevolent employer. In reality, she treated most employees like indentured servants, most were not sad to see her go, and most fear her return.

I’ve been an archivist at the Recorder’s Office for nearly twenty years. In all that time, the office has been through one and only one personnel evaluation. One. That’s it.

2013evalsqc2012evalsqcNow we did have some other raise-related drama in recent years.

In June 2012, Carpenter added an absurd condition to pay raises. Employees were required to bank 20 hours of medical leave before receiving a raise. This goes back to the earn vs. give issue. Carpenter and Meeker did not grasp that employees earned sick leave.

In August 2013, Carpenter issued a memo announcing there would be employee evaluations the next month and we were required to bank 40 hours of medical leave. When I pointed out to Meeker the discrepancy in number of banked hours, she said I was wrong, it had always been 40 hours. She was very upset when I produced the 2012 memo. She said Carpenter was unhappy about employees abusing medical leave, ironic considering Carpenter’s many years of rarely showing up at the office and that Meeker had once bragged about using sick leave to take her then husband’s dogs to the veterinarian.

The 2013 employee evaluations were surreal. There were The Loyalty Questions. There was the question about our nonexistent Human Relations/Sexual Harassment Policy. There was the question about our nonexistent Professional Development opportunities.
2013evalinstruct2013eval12013eval22013eval3

I did not turn in my evaluation. It was lawsuits waiting to happen. It was a safe bet that it would go away. It did. And we did not speak of it again until the new Recorder made inquiries on how raises and promotions had been made. The answer was, poorly.

Future blog posts on race in the Recorder’s Office and Carpenter’s political shake downs of employees.

– Marie Ceselski

Sharon Carpenter’s Taxpayer Funded Campaign Mailings

In her August 14, 2014, interview with St. Louis Public Radio‘s Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum, Sharon Quigley Carpenter denied using Recorder of Deeds staff and materials for campaign purposes. She said that she had bought a computer, printer, and supplies for the campaign and they were at a volunteer’s house.

Apparently, Carpenter has no room at her home to create campaign materials or “store” them.

sqcprojectsmemo23rdwardmemoThe “volunteer” allegedly produced a 23rd Ward Meeting Notice that looks a lot like a Recorder Office Memo.

The “volunteer” allegedly produced mailing labels for Carpenter’s annual fundraiser invitation without Carpenter for Recorder reporting the purchase of labels, or in-kind donation of same, from 2007 to present. But don’t believe it when Recorder Staff tell you that the labels were purchased by taxpayers as office supplies for the Recorder’s Office.

The “volunteer” allegedly produced these mailings without the campaign reporting the purchase of postage, or little postage, or in-kind donation of same, in most years. According to Carpenter for Recorder reports:

2014 Fundraiser1: $503.46 Printing & $49.00 Postage
2014 Fundraiser2: $358.64 Printing $0 Postage (a later report shows $19.60 in postage not attributed to a fundraiser)
2013 Fundraiser: $162.74 Printing & $38.00 Postage
2012 Fundraiser: $336.00 Printing & $400.00 Postage
2011 Fundraiser: $162.74 Printing & $0 Postage
2010 Fundraiser: $162.36 Printing & $0 Postage
2009 Fundraiser: $162.36 Printing & $0 Postage
2008 Fundraiser: $161.61 Printing & $0 Postage
2007 Fundraiser: $161.61 Printing & $82.00 Postage

But don’t believe it when Recorder Staff tell you that taxpayers paid for the postage and that Recorder Office stamps were used.

As for the computer, printer, and printer supplies for the campaign, they also do not show up as having been purchased by Carpenter for Recorder or the 23rd Ward Democratic Organization, or donated in-kind to either, between 2007 to present.

But don’t believe it when Recorder Staff tell you that taxpayers have been footing the bill for her campaign headquarters at City Hall for years.

You might be wondering why 2007? Why only look at campaign finance reports for 2007 to Present? In 1996, Carpenter for Recorder did indeed purchase a computer and printer at  a volunteer’s house. It was with me from 1996-2007. Around 2003, it became useless. In 2007, I wiped the drive clean and gave it to a young man who worked at the office.

– Marie Ceselski

How Much Does Sharon Carpenter Owe Taxpayers For “Storage” At City Hall?

From October 15, 2014, Riverfront Times cover story, Sharon Carpenter’s Strange Fight for the Recorder of Deeds Office,” by Danny Wicentowski

Carpenter also waves off concerns of her using her Recorder of Deeds office as her base of campaign operations. Things accumulate over 30 years, and she doesn’t consider storing mailing material at the office a violation of Missouri’s campaign-ethics laws.

So, according to Sharon Quigley Carpenter, she used her City Hall Office to “store” campaign materials. Doesn’t she owe the taxpayers for storage?

Depends. Right? How much space are we talking about?

34 years of campaign finance records, fundraising lists, invitations, literature drafts, campaign letters, stationary, and a sign, and that’s just what belonged to Carpenter for Recorder Committee. Then there was the 23rd Ward Democratic Organization records and materials.

Sharon Carpenter resigned as Recorder on July 11, 2014, but left thirteen paper boxes of campaign records and materials in the Recorder’s Vault at City Hall. Thirteen boxes.

Instead of turning these campaign materials over to the City Attorney, or Circuit Attorney, or Attorney General, or FBI, Jennifer Florida, the new Recorder, allowed John Carpenter, son of the former Recorder and 23rd Ward Democratic Committeeman, to pick up his mother’s belongings and take them home. It was a kind, nonpolitical thing to do.

But that wasn’t the end of it

More boxes of campaign and ward materials were found in various other Recorder spaces at City Hall, including the basement. Plus, she had left her “op” research package on Ed McFowland in her private office and..

Also from the October 25, 2014, Riverfront Times:

Back in her office, Florida slides open a desk drawer. Inside there are stacks of envelopes, rubber bands and stickers bearing the name of Carpenter’s 23rd ward.

“This is what I keep finding,” she says. “You don’t keep your campaign literature in your offices.”

The way Carpenter sees it, using City Hall space to “store” all this campaign material was OK.

Very well. Then let’s look at what she owes the taxpayers for that storage.

sqc5sqc4The “storage” of campaign materials at City Hall began in 1980. She was appointed to fill a vacancy and then ran for the post in a special election. How do we know she had been storing campaign materials from the very beginning of her Recorder career? She left it at City Hall. It was in one of the boxes found in the basement.

I borrowed some items related to the draft of her first election brochure and scanned them at home.
sqc1sqc3sqc6

Let’s say that Carpenter owes $300 a month for “storage” in various Recorder of Deeds locations at City Hall in Downtown, not a cheap area to rent office space.

8 months her first year. 7 months her last year. 384 months for the other 32 years. 399 months total x $300 = $119,700.

Sharon Carpenter owes $119,700 in rent to the taxpayers of St. Louis City. Or maybe it’s more. Or maybe it’s less.

Carpenter said would pay the City back for the stationary she used to send a political mailer on her last day at City Hall. Is she ready to write a check for her “storage” at City Hall?

Or maybe this use of City Hall for personal purposes was a taxable benefit that should have been declared to the IRS.

– Marie Ceselski

Sharon Carpenter’s Last Days As Recorder Of Deeds: Part II

From October 15, 2014, Riverfront Times cover story, Sharon Carpenter’s Strange Fight for the Recorder of Deeds Office,” by Danny Wicentowski

Carpenter does not shy away from debating the allegations against her. She contests nearly all of the details and the legal interpretation of city laws that led to her resignation, which she says she did mostly for the good of her employees.

“Basically I’d hoped that I could lessen the stress on the staff,” she says. “We were always like a family down there.”

Sharon Quigley Carpenter did not resign as St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds for the sake of her employees. Had she not resigned, she would have been forcibly removed via a court. She had to know that.

We have some experience in St. Louis City with quo warranto petitions. In 1989, then Circuit Attorney George Peach petitioned for removal of then License Collector Billie Boykins. In 1992, Circuit Attorney George Peach resigned after pleading guilty to solicitation of a prostitute- but only because Missouri Attorney General Bill Webster was seeking to remove him quo warranto. In 1993, Missouri Attorney General Bill Webster pled guilty to two counts of using his office staff, equipment, and supplies for political purposes.

How did Carpenter lessen the stress on her staff? Did she spend time with each one, personally thanking them for their service, giving out hugs, and apologizing for the embarrassment she had caused each worker?

No. A defiant Carpenter performed one last illegal act and then sent her next in command to threaten anyone who talked.

On the morning of Friday, July 11, there was a rumor that Carpenter was resigning and Chief Deputy Peggy Meeker was to be appointed to fill the vacancy. This led to panic and talk of a walk-out by some employees. Then there were rumors from the Second Floor of City Hall that Harry Kennedy, a Recorder employee and former State Senator, or Alderwoman Jennifer Florida would be the next Recorder and the work day went on with curious eyes upon the comings and goings of the Front Office.

sqccommitteeOn her last day as Recorder, she called a few staffers into her office to perform a final political mailing. She used City employees, a City computer, a City printer, City stationary, and City postage to mail a campaign letter to fifty plus members of the St. Louis City Democratic Central Committee.

Carpenter dismissed concerns. “These are pieces of paper,” Carpenter said. “I can reimburse them for that. And I will.” If that’s the rule- get caught, reimburse- she owes the City for 34 years rent on her campaign office at City Hall, for starters.

On her last day as Recorder, she sent Peggy Meeker, her Chief Deputy, to herd us into the Land Records Department and the doors were locked to provide privacy from customers. Meeker then read a statement to employees from Carpenter. “Loyalty” was used in nearly every sentence. We were encouraged to vote for her in the Primary. She vowed to find out which employees had “spread misinformation” about the “office” and “deal” with them. Employees took this as a threat, a warning that no one should talk about what went on in the office.

Then, because I am deaf and did not hear the speech, I was summoned to a special presentation of Carpenter’s message by Meeker, which involved her yelling at me. All I could think of was the SNL Garret Morris “Top Story” skits.

Meeker yelled. Then she fake apologized for yelling, saying she did know how else to communicate with me. More yelling. Crying. More yelling.

I am not sure whether it was Meeker or Carpenter who decided peer pressure would help. Three other employees nodded heads and chimed in on how grateful we should be that Carpenter was our boss. I felt sad for them.

And that was how Sharon Carpenter showed her Recorder Family how much she loved them.

– Marie Ceselski