Whistleblower complaint alleges unlawful hires, improper pay raises in St. Louis City government

A whistleblower says St. Louis City officials have broken several laws, including hiring unqualified people and handing out improper raises.
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 6:37 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A whistleblower says St. Louis City officials have broken several laws, including hiring unqualified people and handing out improper raises.

The Missouri State Auditor’s Office now confirms they’ve received the complaint and want to investigate.

Lynette Petruska, an attorney well-versed in city law, says the complaint is concerning.

The eight-page document outlines several allegations.

The author—who News 4 is choosing not to name—is a high-up employee in the City, who says they have direct knowledge of the allegations, saying they wrote the complaint to “Document things I have witnessed that I reasonably believe constitute violations of laws and regulations… are a gross waste of funds and an abuse of authority… and are harmful to citizens of the City of St. Louis.”

Chief among the allegations is that St. Louis’ new police chief was improperly hired.

The whistleblower alleges that the selection of Robert Tracy as chief by Mayor Tishaura Jones in December last year was not done according to the correct legal process.

Moreover, the whistleblower says Tracy’s extra compensation of $100,000 annually paid for by the St. Louis Police Foundation “Violates the City’s compensation ordinance because City employees are prohibited from receiving any extra compensation.”

News 4 Investigates asked the chief about it in a sit-down interview earlier this year as we asked him if he’d be beholden to the non-profit foundation.

“No, I’m not beholden to them. I’m beholden to everybody in the community, even the business leaders but everybody as a whole,” he said.

The complaint also says the head of HR, Sonya Jenkins-Gray, just hired in November 2022, was unlawfully appointed to her position.

Petruska says it may all go back to the Mayor’s Office.

“If they’re violating the charter, at will, to get her what she wants, that’s very concerning,” Petruska said.

Petruska has also filed a discrimination lawsuit for Lt. Col. Michael Sack, who didn’t get the chief job.

“From what I’m hearing, and based on the anonymous complaint, it does sound like civil service is being disregarded when certain people make requests, that it’d be disregarded, and that is concerning because the whole purpose of the civil service rules is that all people be treated equally and fairly,” said Petruska.

The whistleblower claims the HR Director has recently hired people she knows from her husband’s church. News 4 has not yet been able to verify that claim.

As for what happens next, The state auditor’s office confirms they received this complaint in June and have spoken with the whistleblower. But they say they don’t have the authority to just come in and do an audit. The aldermen have to pass a resolution, or citizens have to sign a petition.

In response, Jenkins-Gray, the Director of Personnel, wrote: “The department of personnel will comply and cooperate with any complaint process that we are the subject of.”

We asked the Mayor’s Office for comment, but they only referred to the HR Director’s comment.