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.

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


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