Bruce Franks Jr.

State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. (D-St. Louis) spoke at the Peoples Session in August 2017.

Thug gonna be thug.

That is the point that Political EYE drew from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial on the resignation of state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. (D-St. Louis). The thug, in this instance, is certainly not Franks, who counts civic leadership (at the street level – Cherokee Street, that is) and youth mentoring among his life and career experiences. The thug is the Post-Dispatch editorial board.

The Post is still huffing on that crack pipe of swirling, unsourced rumors of federal investigation into black leadership – even when it’s nested under white leadership, as is the case of Franks in what the Post surmises (without any evidence) to be Franks’ real reason for resigning. This takes some explaining.

Franks’ stated reason for resigning is that he has mental health issues that compel his attention. He has spoken of grappling with depression, anxiety and trauma, which includes survivor’s trauma, an effect of living through the deaths of a great many family members and friends. Tragically, these conditions and experiences are shared by too many young black people who grow up in St. Louis, especially young black men. What is more rare is for someone from this community to admit that they need professional help and to seek it.

The Post-Dispatch editorial board does not include anyone who is black or young. Its seven members include five white men, one Hispanic man (admittedly, Hispanic people often can and do identify as white, but we’re trying to give the Post the benefit of a diversity doubt here) and one white woman. Its youngest member, according to the Post website, is 48, and that not-young not-black man lives on the not-mean streets of Washington, Missouri; at the 2010 Census, Washington’s population was nearly 97 percent white.

None of these people is black or young, and none is a medical professional specializing in depression, anxiety or trauma. Yet they published an editorial in the voice of the Post that dismissed Franks’ own explanation for why he resigned from his seat in the State House of Representatives. Without evidence, they stated that Franks really resigned because he misrepresented the hours he worked mentoring youth with a non-profit agency that has a contract with the City of St. Louis via the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE).

This matter came out of reporting done by Lauren Trager for KMOV based on time sheets submitted by Franks that reported him doing mentoring work at times when Franks’ real-time self-reports on social media revealed him doing something else. Franks has admitted that some of his time sheets recorded the incorrect hours he worked, but denied the insinuation that he billed his employer (and the city paying for the work) for work that he did not do. “Although some of the times reported may have been off, the actual work and amount of hours are all accurate, as well as the day those hours were worked,” Franks wrote in this paper.

In this work, Franks was a 24-hour mentor, available to youth at all times; talking about this aspect of the work, Franks has said that youth don’t only need help between 9 and 5. However, according to someone who worked for SLATE when Franks filed these time sheets, many aspects of work at SLATE were irregular and out of step dating back to the administration of Mayor Francis G. Slay, and it’s believable that someone working on a new, indeed innovative schedule – that of 24-hour mentor – would misreport his hours according to a more conventional time clock.

To be clear: people who report the hours they work should report the actual hours they work. This is especially true of elected officials, such as Franks, and even more importantly true for black elected officials in a media market like St. Louis where black elected officials are mainstream media click bait. Clearly, Franks should have accurately reported his hours. However, if he and his supervisors testify that he worked as many hours as he claimed that he worked, it is extremely difficult to imagine any serious repercussions coming from this misdeed or mistake.

Keep in mind that we are talking about a $15 an hour part-time job. Yes, this frightful boondoggle that allegedly chased a talented (and popular) legislator from public office concerns misrepresenting when he worked hours he would testify that he did work for the grand sum of $15 per hour. This makes it especially thuggish for the Post editorial board to compare Franks to disgraced St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who admitted to fraudulently awarding six-figure public contracts while raising campaign sums in the seven figures. Those are the numbers that engage federal prosecutors, not $15 an hour paid for working the wrong hours recorded on a time sheet.

And yet the thugs at the Post can’t keep their mouths off that crack pipe of unsourced rumors of federal investigation into black leadership. In this smug editorial about why Franks “really” resigned, the Post dribbles out the following obscene piece of journalism-like product: “St. Louis city officials have alluded to a federal investigation involving SLATE ...” This claim must be taken apart piece by piece, since this drivel is used to insinuate that Franks is not seeking help for medical issues but rather “really” fleeing a federal investigation into what the Post is hinting is his corruption.

Let’s start with “a federal investigation.” In fact, according to reliable sources at SLATE, the U.S. Department of Labor is auditing the agency’s books and time sheets. That does, in fact, constitute “a federal investigation.” It does not, however, constitute a federal criminal investigation by the long arm of the Department of Justice, though that is the clear implication of the Post comparing Franks to Stenger and using the criminally vague phrase “a federal investigation.” It’s also impossible to refute this claim because, as the thugs at the Post know, the DOJ neither confirms nor denies its investigations until it’s indictment time.

And then there is this putrid piece of language: “St. Louis city officials.” The Post endorsed the make-Stenger-king Better Together proposal for merging city and county governments, so they know how fragmented our government is. This makes “city officials” such a criminally vague phrase that the dog catcher could be the Post’s source. However, “city officials” clearly could include people in the administration of Mayor Lyda Krewson. In that case, these rumors are being swirled by officials ultimately responsible for SLATE. Yet the Post does not follow the swirling rumor to the top and make any attempt to hold Krewson responsible.

But, one might object, that would not be fair. Ah, but the Post spent more than a year attacking then County Executive Charlie Dooley (in news stories and on the Tony Messenger-led editorial page) for alleged corruption in his administration. Those stories and editorials were all warmed up with rumors of federal investigations into Dooley (stories placed, in many cases, by none other than Stenger), although Dooley denied he was being investigated and was never charged. When the Post endorsed its prize source – Stenger – over Dooley, it did so with a political cartoon of Dooley and the phrase “the buck stops here.”

Clearly, for the Post, “the buck” stops at the top when a black man is at the top. But not when a white person is sitting at the top. Indeed, here Krewson’s own administration seems to be swirling the rumors about an alleged “federal investigation” of one its own departments, but those rumors don’t swirl to the top. They settle down at the bottom. In this case, for the Post, “the buck” stops at the black man getting paid $15 an hour.

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