St. Peters Alderman Gus Elliott Under Investigation by Special Prosecutor
The city has hired a special prosecutor to look into a harassment claim against the Ward 3 Alderman by a city employee.
St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano has ordered a special prosecutor to investigate a harassment claim made against St. Peters Ward 3 Alderman Gus Elliott by the city’s Director of Community Relations, Lisa Bedian.
The claim alleges Elliott harassed Bedian in February by using Bedian’s name, without her consent, on a Missouri Ethics Commission report filed by Missouri Lieutenant Governor candidate Cynthia Davis.
The ethics report, targeted at St. Peters Ward 3 Alderman Tommy Roberts, was posted on Davis' website as a PDF and the properties of the file listed Bedian as the author. Copies of the report were circulated by CDs around St. Peters and an anonymous emailer named The Masked Avenger also distributed copies of the PDF to several people, including some local media.
St. Peters Police dropped harassment charges against Elliott on April 10, saying it could not be proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that harassment occurred.
Pagano said he ordered the investigation because the case involves two city employees.
"I want to know if (there was) wrongdoing and, if there is, what charges do I do," Pagano said.
The special prosecutor, Richard Brunk of Chesterfield, was assigned the case in April and City Administrator William Charnisky expects to have a full report in the next few weeks.
"The police did the investigation, but the mayor wanted us to have somebody that was non-biased look at this and determine if there were any violations on anyone's part that would require any further action,” Charnisky said
Pagano wouldn’t speculate on what could happen to Elliott if the investigation turned up any wrongdoing. St. Peters, as a fourth-class city, is governed by state statute 79.240, which allows elected officials to be impeached.
"We've never experienced something like this," Pagano said.
Bedian denied having anything to do with the report or even knowing Davis. After a police investigation, Bedian was cleared of any wrongdoing after no trace of the document was found on her seized computer.
Authorities then turned their attention to Elliott after Davis told them he had put the report together for her.
Elliott admitted to police on Feb. 23 that he had helped Davis with the complaint and had made the PDF. However, he denied changing the author of the document to Lisa Bedian. Elliott told police he had researched the ethics complaint, formatted it and printed it out for Davis and also provided her with a digital copy.
Police said it wasn't the content of the ethics complaint that was the issue, but the misidentification of Bedian as the author which could cost her her job.
Police informed Elliott they believed he was the one who altered the document to make the author Lisa Bedian.
While being questioned by police, Elliott sat in silence for 17 seconds after being asked if he had changed the PDF, the police report says. Elliott opened his mouth several times, but never uttered a word. When asked again—yes or no, did Elliott change the name on the file—Elliott again sat for 22 seconds, according to the report, without uttering a word.
Elliott ultimately admitted to changing the author of the PDF and to being the Masked Avenger, the anonymous source that leaked the report to the media.
He said file properties buried in the file can be altered with simple dos commands and that by doing this, the name of the author can be changed. Elliott said that to find this information, someone would have to be looking for it and that someone like Lisa Bedian would be digging around to find the information.
"It was more about irony, that she would never align herself politically under any circumstances," Elliott told police.