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.
On 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