ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) - Some St. Louis County mayors say a conflict of interest drove the NAACP’s St. Louis County Chapter to endorse Better Together’s plan for a city-county merger.
St. Louis County NAACP President John Gaskin announced the group’s support on Thursday. However, some say his relationship with Unite STL, an organization that supports the proposed merger, is the driving force behind the move.
Gaskin is employed by Unite STL.
“I think John Gaskin has really shown his hand. I think, unfortunately, he has sold out the NAACP St. Louis County branch to Better Together,” said Dellwood Mayor Reggie Jones, who opposes Better Together’s plan.
Jones says other St. Louis County mayors agree with him.
Gaskin says the disagreement is just an old grudge rearing its ugly head.
“They came to us and told them this would destroy our cities, it will impact our revenue and we won’t be able to function,” said Gaskin.
Gaskin is referring to support for statewide reform to stop cities from using court costs to gouge people. Jones is accusing Gaskin of expressing his own opinion on the merger on behalf of the entire St. Louis County NAACP.
Gaskin says the organization’s executive committee voted on the matter and added there is no conflict of interest.
“We have several people within leadership, and if there is a moment where I need to recuse myself, I will be happy to do that and act in protocol so that we remain ethical," Gaskin said.
Jones says Gaskin needs to step down as St. Louis NAACP President.
“He is being paid. I think he is being bought,” Jones said.
Unite STL released the following statement about Gaskin:
“It’s highly offensive to think the NAACP would make a public endorsement on a highly charged issue for a temporary job for one of their members.”
Other mayors weighed in, saying they are very responsive to their residents.
Better Together later released a statement in response:
“It’s no surprise the opposition to the Better Together proposal continues to come from politicians who are comfortable maintaining the status quo. This is the same group of individuals who are opposed to police and municipal court reform. Two of the individuals in particular served as the spokespeople opposing SB 5, which attempted to eliminate the worst abuses in County municipal courts and set minimum standards for area police departments.”