Sharon Carpenter’s Last Days As Recorder of Deeds: Part I

Before Sharon Quigley Carpenter stepped down as St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds on July 11, 2014, for violating Missouri’s nepotism law, she submitted three names to Mayor Francis Slay, her nominations to fill her own vacancy. The three names were Peggy Meeker, Harry Kennedy, and Jennifer Florida.

Peggy Tries Meeker, her Chief Deputy, had bragged to employees, including myself, for at least eleven years, that Carpenter would always take care of her. The Chief Deputy position is the only “at-will” job in the Recorder’s office. Unlike all other positions, a Recorder does not need cause to fire and replace the Chief Deputy. In the event Carpenter died in office, Meeker believed arrangements were in place for her to become Recorder or remain as Chief Deputy. In the event Carpenter was defeated at the polls, she believed Carpenter would transfer her to another position in the office at her same Chief Deputy salary.

Before Carpenter resigned, Meeker was already the subject of intrigue involving office renovations. Meeker claimed her son’s construction company was favored by Carpenter for the job. Any information unflattering of Carpenter or Meeker was labeled “misinformation” by Meeker and she talked of “disloyalty” and promised reprisal.

On September 17, 2014, Meeker was fired for cause, not politics, by Recorder Jennifer Florida. At issue was a Vital Records security breach that could have resulted in the State Health Department shutting down the City’s birth and death records services.

The day after she was fired, City Counselor Winston Calvert issued a damning report on the office renovations and Meeker’s role. Carpenter then began distancing herself from Meeker. Bill Peck, Carpenter’s campaign treasurer, a retired Recorder employee, wrote the St. Louis-Post Dispatch, asking why Carpenter’s photo had been used in a story rather than Meeker’s and accusing the newspaper of having an agenda.

In an October 15, 2014, Riverfront Times story, Carpenter officially threw Meeker under the bus.

Carpenter is “disappointed” to read about how her former deputy chief handled the bidding process. She says she hasn’t spoken to Meeker in more than a month. If she wins in November, Carpenter says, she has no plans of reinstating Meeker now that Florida has filled that position. However, Carpenter would consider “everyone” if the job were to open up.

“It’ a fairly complex position, and you need to be someone from inside the office, someone with experience,” she says. “[Meeker] should not have gotten the bids herself, but it was not illegal for her to get them. I knew he was her son, but I had no interest in who got the bid. I wanted the work done.”

Meeker’s son was not her first relative to be hired at the Recorder’s. Prior to 2003, Dorothy Tesson, Meeker’s mother-in-law, was hired to do clerical work in what was then called the Computer Department. Tesson was a Fulton resident. She stayed with Peggy and Scott Meeker at their home in the City when she worked at the Recorder’s. Tesson was paid from the Recorder’s Preservation Fund, the same account Meeker’s son was paid. The Meekers have since divorced.

Harry Kennedy became a Recorder employee in 2013 following Board President Lewis Reed’s failed bid for mayor in the March primary. Kennedy, also 14th Ward Committeeman, had endorsed his boss for mayor but his ward voted 75% for Mayor Francis Slay. Kennedy was shy a few months from being vested in the City retirement system when he left as legislative director for Reed.

Kennedy brought experience with him to the Recorder’s office. As a former State Senator, he had handled legislation for the Recorders Association of Missouri and shepherded the City’s bill to move Vital Records from the Health Department to Recorder. Full Disclosure: I wrote the literature for Kennedy’s first campaign for state representative in 1996. I did it as a favor to Carpenter.

Jennifer Florida was 15th Ward Alderwoman and a candidate for Board President when Mayor Slay asked her to be Recorder. Prior to last Spring’s filing deadline for Recorder, Carpenter and Meeker had talked of rumors that Florida might file for Recorder. But, then, they thought everyone, including myself, might file for the office.

Carpenter is a major supporter of Board President Reed’s reelection next year. He is a big supporter of her re-election.

What a tangled web we weave.

Before the formal resignation, Carpenter met with Jennifer Florida. Carpenter said that she wanted to be re-elected and then retire in April 2015, her 35th year as Recorder. Carpenter denies it. She goes so far as to deny the meeting even happened, apparently forgetting that Harry Kennedy was there. His job was to babysit Carpenter’s grandchildren that came with her.

Questions that need asked and answered.

Why did Carpenter get to nominate her successor?

Was there a reason Mayor Slay wanted Florida out of the Board President race?

Why Jennifer Florida? Why that particular alderwoman sitting on only $20,000 in campaign funds? It was going to take real money to beat Carpenter’s 34 years of name recognition. Real money raised in a very short period of time. Were any of the aldermen with much larger war chests even asked if they were interested in the position?

Why didn’t Mayor Slay pull his support for Carpenter in the Democratic Primary?

Democratic Primary candidate Ed McFowland had published concerns about Carpenter’s spending of the Recorder’s Preservation and Technology Fund early in June. He first mentioned the name “Rudy Brynac” on June 8, 2011, which he later found to be Carpenter’s nephew, resulting in the nepotism charge and call for Carpenter to resign. Slay donated a total of $700 to Carpenter’s campaign on June 10, 2014.

St. Louis City is the Biggest Small Town in America. If you think that it was not well-known long ago at City Hall and in political circles that Carpenter had hired her nephew, you would be wrong.

Why didn’t Mayor Slay contact members of the Democratic City Central Committee and urge them to pull their endorsements of Carpenter from their Primary Election sample ballots?

Why hasn’t Mayor Slay contacted member of the Democratic City Central Committee ands urged them to pull their endorsements of Carpenter from their General Election sample ballots?

– Marie Ceselski

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