COOL VALLEY — Three years ago, Mayor Jason Stewart made a campaign pledge to give $1,000 in bitcoin to every citizen in this small North St. Louis County municipality.
Now, the promise broken, he also faces impeachment.
The aldermen are trying to remove him from office, claiming that he is abusing his city vehicle and fuel card, failing to complete the city budget or fulfill his job responsibilities.
“Personally, I like this guy. He’s just a bad leader,” Cool Valley alderman Jermaine Matthew said. “I am focused and interested in taking care of the people of Cool Valley.”
Stewart told the Post-Dispatch that the hearing and investigation are a sham and an attempt to seize power in this Northern County city of 1,000 bordering Berkeley, Normandy, Ferguson and a section of Interstate 70.
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“Their political agenda is hurting the city,” Stewart said. “If you want to get rid of me, hit me fair and square. Beat me in the election. Find something I actually did wrong.”
Impeachment hearing scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Wednesday; Current and former city employees are expected to testify before the Board of Aldermen, whose members filed impeachment charges 3–1, and who will hear the case.
The fight pits the attention-grabbing new mayor against elected officials who say he’s not up to the job. Stewart says he is a “workhorse” who likes to work in the background.
Stewart was elected in 2020 in an election that saw voter turnout double the usual, garnering 60% of the vote against former alderman Alvin Robinson and former mayor-now alderman Floyd Blackwell. If Stewart is impeached, Blackwell, chairman of the board, will become mayor until the next election.
Stewart told Post-Dispatch that the Bitcoin project is still a work in progress, funded entirely by a wealthy business partner who doesn’t want his name to be known. Stewart says Cool Valley residents could get the money as early as this block if he’s still mayor.
“If I’m not in the office, they’re not going to come out and learn what I’m doing,” Stewart said. “They don’t just study Bitcoin, I think they also study me a bit.”
When Stewart was asked to confirm, Stewart sent copied Post-Dispatch emails – with no sender information – about the partnership with the university. When Post-Dispatch contacted one of the program directors at the University of Pennsylvania Research Center referred to by Stewart via email, he said they are not currently involved in any projects with Stewart or the city of Cool Valley.
The mayor did not respond to the Post-Dispatch message.
However, city aldermen say bitcoin is the least of their worries.
In July, the board voted to force Stewart to return his city car, an old, high-mileage police car they allege he used for personal purposes, saying he did not reveal what kind of city business he handled using the car.
The aldermen also voted to revoke the mayor’s gas card, stating that city officials should not leave cars outside their homes overnight.
Stewart said he has yet to give up the car as he considers it “unconstitutional” and in violation of other city ordinances. He also says that he only used the car for city business. What decree he did not specify.
Matthew says Stewart has failed to make sure the city clerk has fulfilled her obligation to submit the official city budget for the past two years. Typically, the annual budget is put to a vote after discussion between the mayor and the board.
Stuart says the aldermen won’t meet with him.
State law requires the city to submit a budget showing the city’s annual plan for projected revenues and expenditures to several government agencies, including the state auditor.
Records show that in June, the State Audit Office received a financial report from the City of Cool Valley for the fiscal year ending 2021. The document includes actual income and expenses for FY 2021 and proposals for FY 2022. However, Matthew says that for the past two years, the board of directors has not been presented with a budget for discussion.
Stewart did not provide Post-Dispatch with city bank statements, but did send an Excel spreadsheet showing the city had a balance of over $500,000.
Requests from the State Archives for budget documents to the Cool Valley City Clerk’s Office went unanswered and unacknowledged. The previous city clerk “suddenly resigned” in November and, according to an impeachment document, failed to provide account passwords, office keys and financial records.
The aldermen allege that Stewart, who was appointed the city’s chief law enforcement officer, failed to make sure the clerk was doing her job and that the city was following state law.
Stewart grew up in North St. Louis County, attended the John Burroughs School, and then graduated from the University of Miami. He told Post-Dispatch that he worked for a Grammy-winning music production company, a cryptocurrency software company in California, and helped found a company in Cool Valley that he says helps clean up the oceans. Stewart said the company has made millions.
PL28 was dissolved in 2021, and government documents show it had a value of less than $30,000 when the company filed for an LLC in 2017.
Now Stewart says he is 100% committed to being mayor full-time. Although he admits that his critics are right that he could be more visible in the community. But he claims to be a good mayor. He said all the city’s bank accounts were in order.
“We have a lot of things to take care of, our streets, our safety, our neighborhood, but you can’t take care of any business if you don’t know where your money is,” said Cool Valley elder Erlene Jones Collins. . “I’ll be so happy when we can get away from all this drama.”