St. Louis County has a pretty rudimentary government. No knock on the county; this is likely a result of prosperous times in the past that haven't required as much sophistication about how it conducted business. For the most part, this had been left to address by the 91 municipalities and nine unincorporated locales that comprise county government. How effectively this has been addressed to date is in fact up for debate. However, in facing greater economic challenges, St. Louis County understood that it needed to make some changes to retain the confidence of its residents.
This last week marked an important change in the way St. Louis County does business. County Executive Charlie Dooley announced some pretty sweeping changes to the government's ethics policies.
Most dramatically, every county employee — civil servant, police officer, appointment — will have to attend an annual ethics seminar as a condition of employment. The new policy also establishes some whistleblower protections and hotlines, prohibits the receipt of all gifts by all employees, codifies the notion of conflict of interest, and begins a process for reforming procurement and purchasing.
How is this of relevance to the local urbanist or that of any citizen in the St. Louis Metro Area? Strengthening the policies of the county's historically informal government makes it more likely to be able to administer the greatest incorporation it is history: the readmission of the City into St. Louis County.
This link will take you to the St. Louis County Ethics Guidelines. Wondering about similar policy in St. Louis City? Check out ordinances 64102, 64103, and 68409. As always, feel free to share your thoughts below.