Meet the City Council Candidates, Part 2

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Below is a summary of what was found in each candidates’ filings. This information, together with the first part of Meet the Council Candidates at this link can help provide an informed decision on voting for those who will be handling a $13 million budget of city that has been forced to scale back on basic services for many years. Council members have no administrative duties, but approve contracts, permits, and create policies that the City Manager uses to direct city staff. Astute voters will consider those duties and go beyond looking at campaign literature to decide of which candidate best suits the work needed.

Campaign finance filings are important source material in understanding how each candidates handles money, chooses to spend their funds, and whether their financial support comes from within the community they seek to serve or from outside sources. These finance reports are filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) and can be found in their searchable database at this link. It’s also important to check filings, as it’s often misunderstood by voters that the Board of Elections (BOE) checks financial filings for problems. Rather, the BOE only gets involved when a complaint is filed. (The BOE does certify the petitions of candidates to ensure that each candidate is supported by a minimum required number of registered voters in the ward they are running. But as we found in the strange of case of Lawrence Berry, neither the state nor the County BOE will get involved in issues addressed, or not, by city ordinance.)

Each voter will vote for only one candidate within only the ward they reside in. If you are not sure which ward you live within, check your sample ballot sent from the St. Louis County Board of Elections or use this link to view a map of the wards for Ferguson.

Ward One

Lawrence Berry withdrew late from the election and remains on the ballot. He never formed a committee, nor has he filed reports. He failed to file a financial disclosure as required by the state, but the city failed to remove him from the ballot. He can still receive votes, but his withdrawal indicates he would not accept the seat. Berry has been referred to a one of the “Mayor’s candidates.” Mayor Jones, along with Council Member Phedra Nelson, signed his petition. Additionally, the Observer did confirm that Mayor Ella Jones tried to connect him with at least one person experienced with acting as a campaign treasurer who declined after speaking with him about his tax problems, and Jones also urged the North County Labor Club to endorse him without an interview. The North County Labor Club held interviews with candidates and selected Berry’s opponent as their endorsed candidate.

Should he be the top vote-getter, and either be ruled ineligible or decline the vacancy would be filled by majority vote of the council after the election. Should he win and seek to take the seat, it could get extremely interesting and potentially involve lawyers, the court, and the Board of Elections to sort things out.

Linda Lipka is the incumbent running for her third term. She has lived in Ferguson her whole life and owns Sounsational DJ Services LLC and works as a DJ. For those that follow council meetings, she is often the first to begin asking questions. She filed a statement of organization on 1/28/22, for her current campaign, and Rob Chabot, a Ferguson resident and business owner, serves as her treasurer. Her overall donations are a total of $4,144.23. Contributions came from 43 itemized individual donors. Included in her total is $165 of small cash contributions $100 or less received at fund-raisers, and $180 of anonymous contributions of $20 or less. Of the itemized contributors, 32 Ferguson residents gave a total of $2745. Of the individuals contributing who live outside of Ferguson, all but one (a retiree in Florida) are in the Metro area. Lipka received the endorsement of the North County Labor Club and a donation from them of $300. Her expenditures have primarily been for campaign literature, with $2098 spent. She has also spent small amounts on a bank fee, office supplies, and food. As an incumbent, she has previously paid for yard signs in her two earlier campaigns which can still be used.

Lipka’s Facebook page can be found here. The Observer previously shared a personal endorsement found here.

Ward Two

Heather Robinett is the incumbent running for her third term. She has lived in Ferguson since 2004 and is an engineer employed by AT&T. Those following council meetings know she regularly asks questions and can often ask more technical questions. Robinett filed her statement of organization on 1/8/22 and her husband, Larry Robinett, serves as her treasurer. Her overall campaign fund total is $5175. These contributions came from 34 itemized individual donors. Of these, 28 Ferguson residents gave a total of $4380. Of the individuals contributing who live outside of Ferguson, all but two (a retiree in California and an AT&T employee in New Jersey) are in the Metro area. Robinett received the endorsement of the North County Labor Club and a donation from them of $300. Her expenditures have been for advertising, including $1830 to Outfront Media for a billboard, and $1789 for printing services. Robinett has also reported smaller expenditures on bank fees, processing fees, and filing fees. As an incumbent Robinett also paid previously for yard signs in her two earlier campaigns which can still be used.

Robinett’s website can be found here. The Observer previously shared a personal endorsement found here.

TraVonne “Von” Walker graduated from Ladue Horton Watkins High School in 2017 and attends Harris Stowe University. He apparently did not claim residency at his mother’s home until after his graduation from high school though she has owned the home longer. Walker formed his committee on 12/22/21 with his sister Kaitlynn Walker of Jennings serving as treasurer. His overall campaign fund total of $1371.04. The sole Ferguson resident donating to his campaign is Mildred Clines, who gave $500 and serves as Fran Griffin’s treasurer. Conflictingly, Von’s sister Kaitlynn is listed at her mother’s address as a contributor of $25 to his campaign. Walker also received $500 from Geneva Lee of Ladue, who was seen with him in January and introduced herself as “helping find Von’s voice.” Walker has three other itemized donors and reported $146.04 raised from unnamed persons as donations of from people giving $100 or less. In expenditures, Walker spent $250 to the Missouri State Democrat’s VAN/Votebuilder, a privately owned voter database and web hosting service provider used by the Democratic Party, an unusual choice for a small municipal election of a single ward. He also has spent $355 on a text messaging platform. Other declared expenses are “Walk Cards,” fees paid to ActBlue, and bank fees. Not included in the most recent filing made on 3/28/22 is any mention of sign purchases, though signs started popping up the same day.

Walker declined to have a personal endorsement submitted to the Ferguson, instead sending on this email linked here. He also declined to respond to the League of Women Voters to include his responses in their election guide which still includes no more than his name as of 3/31/22.

Ward Three

Fran Griffin originally filed her committee organization 11/29/18 for her first campaign with Mildred Clines as treasurer and leaving political party affiliation blank and undeclared. On 1/27/22 an amendment was filed changing her affiliation to Democrat even though she has only run for and held a non-partisan position. (See this article from last year’s campaign about the problems of partisanship in a local, non-partisan election.) Griffin is the only candidate in this election filing while stating a partisan position. Griffin is also the incumbent and is seeking her second term on council. Those following council meetings know Fran is engaged and offers her own questions. She has also been problematic and highlighted in the Observer for such. Griffin makes it clearly she seeks to represent the marginalized and disenfranchised, unfortunately at least once delaying appointments to the Traffic Commission for months so that she could personally find an appointee—who turned out to live in Normandy instead of Ferguson.

Griffin is an office manager at St. Peter’s UCC Church and has been a Ferguson resident since 2005. As Griffin has maintained a committee since 2018, she had $216 on hand prior to filing as a candidate in this race. Since that time she has raised $2917. She has done the best of any of the candidates in securing union endorsements and contributions: the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council donated $500, the North County Labor Club contributed $300, and the Electrical Workers Voluntary Political Missouri gave $200. She has contributions from six Ferguson residents who gave a total of $817. The remaining $1100 came from 8 donors, six of whom are in the St. Louis Metro area and the last two from Washington, D.C. and from Mayor Jones’ daughter Marletha Jones, of Ft. Worth, Texas. Griffin has spent $499 on signs, $263 on campaign literature, and $336 on an electronic newsletter using Constant Contact. Additional small amounts of money have gone to processing fees.

Griffin’s Facebook page can be found at this link. The Observer previously shared a personal endorsement found here.

Mike Palmer is a real estate broker andowns a property company and has focused on residential and commercial properties within Ferguson. He is a life long resident of Ferguson. Palmer formed his committee on 3/1/2021 when he first ran as a write in candidate in late year’s election. He had $886 on hand from the prior election before filing to run in the current race. In this campaign period he raised $4735.05 from 34 different contributors. Of that, 29 were Ferguson residents who gave $2830.05, one donor giving $500 does not reside in Ferguson but owns a business here. The remaining three donors live in the Metro area. Noticeable within the list of contributors is the support of tradesmen residing in Ferguson, as carpenters, plumbers, locksmiths, painters, and home service owners are all represented. Palmer has spent $1160 on advertising and marketing, $132 on postcards, $300 on postage, $100 for gift cards for a fundraiser, and $40 for voter list.

Palmer’s Facebook page can be found at this link. He also has a website here.  The Observer previously shared a personal endorsement found here.