The attacks continue against St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a progressive prosecutor who has made some strides toward reforming the judicial system. She is the first African American to hold the position.
Mayor Lyda Krewson and President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed recently refused to approve a transfer of funds partially meant for Gardner’s legal fees to defend herself in the case brought against her by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department — one of Gardner’s biggest adversaries.
The legal fees relate to the grand jury investigation that is currently reviewing whether Gardner’s investigator William Tisaby lied under oath in spring 2018 during then-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ felonious invasion of privacy case.
What could have been handled at no cost to taxpayers has now exploded in legal fees from both sides — all of which the City of St. Louis is on the hook for.
At the May 15 Board of Estimate and Apportionment meeting, Krewson said that Gardner’s estimated defense costs appeared to be $180,000. And she criticized Gardner for “fighting the search warrants” for the investigation.
“This is just a whole lot of money that we could use doing other things,” Krewson told the other two members on the board, Reed and Comptroller Darlene Green. “I just hate to see this kind of money expended to fight a search warrant.”
Reed said he agreed.
Green pointed out that neither the mayor or aldermanic president mentioned the costs of the special prosecutor, which the city also has to pay for. According to documents obtained by KSDK, the city recently allowed $250,000 to be transferred from the courts budget to City Counselor Julian Bush’s office in preparation of the bill and expenses from the special prosecutor.
And it was Krewson’s own appointee, Bush, who brought suit in the Circuit Court on June 27, 2018, on behalf of the police department, seeking a special prosecutor in the case. So Krewson initiated the proceedings that she now doesn’t want the city to pay for.
On June 29, Circuit Court Judge Michael Mullen appointed high-dollar attorney Gerard Carmody — who was definitely not the most cost-efficient option for the city and who was not vetted for conflicts of interest. And in fact, he has close ties to Greitens’ law team who Gardner alleges threatened to “ruin” her professionally and personally if she continued to prosecute the former governor. Greitens’ attorneys denied these allegations, according to the Associated Press.
Prior to Carmody’s appointment, Gardner had suggested that Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker serve as the special prosecutor, which would have been free for taxpayers.
The Board of Estimate & Apportionment also discussed whether or not they should approve the funds, in light of the May 6 temporary restraining order that put a hold on paying Gardner’s lawyers. It came out of a lawsuit filed on April 15 by city resident and former police officer Charles Lane, who alleges that Gardners’ contracts for her lawyers did not go through the proper channels of approval.
At the meeting, the comptroller did not appear to be put off by the contracts or the approval of them. She said she is “not a judge,” but she is the city’s chief financial officer — and the fact that the board was even looking at the funds transfer was a “courtesy,” not a requirement.
The city has not seen any invoices or bills yet, Green said, but Gardner’s office gave an estimate.
In regards to Krewson’s comment on the search warrant, Gardner said publicly — before Judge Michael Mullen issued a gag order in the case — that she complied with Carmody’s first search warrant. However, the second search warrant, issued on February 21, is so broad that it would require the circuit attorney to hand over “every file in the office,” attorneys representing Gardner told a judge at a hearing on March 5. The warrant asks for all files stored on the office’s server that contain 31 common terms, including “notes,” “tape,” and “recording.”
Gardner said she was not against the search warrants, just that the broadness and unlimited nature of the scope put residents’ privacy – and ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions – at risk.
Despite Gardner’s attempts to fight the second search warrant, the police are now in possession of her email server and archives. And they have been allowed to search them since a Court of Appeals ruling on May 13.
While Krewson said at the meeting that Gardner appeared to be drawing out the case, Gardner filed a motion to expedite the Tisaby case on May 23. A hearing is scheduled for June 12 at 1 p.m. in the Carnahan Courthouse regarding the case on Gardner’s contracts.