Despite intense opposition from four fellow St. George residents, Bob Burns was elected by the St. Louis County Council to oversee the .
In the public comment section of the county council meeting Tuesday night, one St. George resident after another stepped up to speak against Bob Burns being named the executive to oversee the disincorporation. Later, five council members voted for Burns, and two abstained, giving Burns the job of overseeing the disincorporation of the city.
Brian Wilkerson spoke first. He said Burns had been involved in many of the disputes in the community over the years, and that Burns would open old wounds and create new ones.
“Don’t let our citizen action be reduced to cronyism, political hackery and politics in action,” Wilkerson said.
Council member Steve Stenger (D-6th District) said Burns didn’t lobby him for the position, and noted that Burns will receive “a whopping” $1 per year salary for the position.
“I moved for his appointment as trustee because I know of his track record in the community, and some of the things you’ve said tonight, is simply untrue,” Stenger said.
But the attack continued.
St. George Ward 2 alderman Christina Charpentier said Burns has long-standing feuds with residents and accused him of instigating gossip and smear campaigns.
She said Burns perpetrated lies that the city hall would be a police substation, and that the St. Louis County Park Department would maintain the park “after we had been informed by county officials that it wasn’t true,” she said.
Burns, who was at the meeting, later said he was told by St. Louis County Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls that the county would try to make city hall into a substation, and the county would try to keep the park.
St. George Mayor Carmen Wilkerson said Burns’ constant antagonistic relationship with several of his neighbors was most challenging.
“Each time Mr. Burns defied our pleas to work quietly in the background, public meetings turned into screaming matches, and voters who otherwise thought that St. George should be disincorporated were alienated.”
Susan Preis was the last to speak against Burns.
“Appointing someone who lives in the city and has been involved in many of the past disputes, will only continue the hard feelings which some of the neighbors harbor for each other,” Preis said.
She said St. George city attorney Paul Martin or city treasurer Ron Cipolla would be ideal choices for the job.
Burns said after the meeting that he didn’t understand the hard feelings.
“They never came to me and asked anything,” he said. “They just came out with all these accusations.” However, he said he has no animosity toward the group.
Burns has been involved in politics in some way for 40 years. He was on the Affton board of Education for 12 years and worked as a staffer for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and former Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO). He has been a staple presence at St. George Board of Aldermen meetings and disincorporation town halls. His wife Dianne Burns serves on the St. George Board of Aldermen as president.
He said he will hire the services of the Lathrop and Gage law firm to help with the work, and he intends to work with city treasurer Ron Cipolla and attorney Paul Martin.
When asked about why there might be such a strong reaction to his appointment, “It’s their first time in an election, I know that. Elections do get intense,” he said.
“We did have opposition, and the opposition said a few things that were untrue, and some of those old wounds in St. George are from the scandals.
“This way it’s all dispensed, and we become part of St. Louis County,” he said.