After refusing to resign amid an ultimatum from Republican Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, beleaguered progressive St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner (D) is now the subject of a petition quo warranto, the legal process through which she may be removed from office for neglect of duties, as Fox News reports.
Gardner has been embroiled in controversy for an extended period of time over accusations of misconduct in office, failure to appropriately staff her office, refusal to aggressively prosecute serious offenses, and neglecting crime victims, and her ouster may finally be at hand.
Earlier this week, Bailey informed Gardner that she could either resign voluntarily or face a process of removal following the latest incident in which she is accused of failing to meet the requirements of her job.
Prompting the move was a motor vehicle crash in which a driver who had repeatedly violated bond conditions on prior armed robbery charges sped down a St. Louis Street, failed to yield at an intersection, and collided with a parked car, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explained.
As a result of the impact, a 17-year-old volleyball player visiting the area for a tournament was pinned between the vehicles and subsequently required amputation of both legs.
In Bailey's estimation, Gardner's office bore responsibility for monitoring the offender's compliance with bond conditions and failed to revoke the privilege once it was known that he had committed numerous violations.
Bailey contends that there are three primary realms in which Gardner is guilty of “neglect in office” sufficient to justify her removal, with the first being a routine failure to prosecute cases that have been filed.
“So as law enforcement referral comes in, she files a charge and then she doesn't move the case at all, she fails to move those cases to disposition. So, these cases languish on dockets and are eventually dismissed,” Bailey said.
The attorney general also cited Gardner's apparent unwillingness to keep crime victims informed and confer with them regarding potential dispositions in their cases, something he claims is a breach of her “moral and legal obligation.”
Bailey also accused Gardner of failing to file new cases once she receives referrals from law enforcement agencies, and said, “I'm a former prosecutor. I've worked in a county prosecutor's office, and what motivated me every day was the rule of law and finding justice for victims. And rather than finding justice for victims and protecting victims, the circuit attorney of the city of St. Louis was creating new victims.”
Having refused Bailey's call for her resignation, Gardner appeared at a press conference Thursday in which she angrily declared the attorney general's actions to be a “political stunt” and a form of “voter suppression,” as Fox News noted separately.
“The attorney general, as others, use this unfortunate incident and tragic happening to this young lady as a political stunt of an unelected individual. This is nothing more than voter suppression, which we've seen on a national level as well as in the state of Missouri,” Gardner defiantly declared.
Indicating that she would fight Bailey's attempt to remove her from office, Gardner stated, “While I understand that politics will always play a role, my office will return to focusing on the important work that the people of the city of St. Louis elected me [to do].”
Gardner continued, saying, “We're going to fight very hard for justice in spite of the vitriol, the hate the racist attacks, the known manipulation of the court procedures to make sure our office fails.”
As the Post-Dispatch further noted, Gardner's defiance and her insistence that racial animus is driving those pursuing her removal did not play particularly well with a number of prominent local figures, including many who have supported her in the past.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, long considered an ally of Gardner's, held little back in her assessment of the situation, saying, “She really needs to do some soul-searching of whether or not she wants to continue as circuit attorney, because she's lost the trust of the people.”
Alderman Marlene Davis implored Gardner to accept the reality of the current situation and be willing to work with the legislature, and if not, “maybe there's something different that she might want to do to support her community.” Alderman Mike Gras, a two-time supporter of Gardner's election campaigns said that St. Louis “deserves a circuit attorney that will represent our interests in the criminal justice system and Circuit Attorney Gardner has shown clearly that she cannot.”
Far more direct in choosing his words about Gardner was Alderman Joe Vollmer, who said simply, “She's a disaster. She needs to resign,” but that such an outcome appears unlikely, the quo warranto process will need to play out, and the precise timeline for resolution of the circuit attorney's fate remains unclear.