COOL VALLEY – Three years ago, Mayor Jason Stewart made a campaign promise to give $1,000 in bitcoin to every resident of this small community in North St. Louis County.
Now, the unfulfilled promise, he is also threatened with impeachment.
Councilors are trying to oust him, saying he abuses his city car and gas card, fails to support the city budget or fulfill his job duties.
“Personally, I like the guy. He’s just not a good leader,” said Cool Valley Alderman Jermaine Matthews. “It is my focus and interest to see that the residents of Cool Valley are taken care of.”
Stewart told the Post-Dispatch that the hearings and investigation are a sham and an attempted power grab in this North County town of 1,000, which borders Berkeley, Normandy, Ferguson and a stretch of Interstate 70.
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“Their political agenda is hurting the city,” Stewart said. “If you want to get rid of me, beat me fair and square. Beat me in the elections. Find something I’ve actually done that’s wrong.”
The impeachment hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:00 p.m.; Current and former city officials are expected to testify before the Board of Aldermen, whose members both voted 3-1 to impeach him and who will hear the case.
The fight pits a first-time mayor in the limelight against established elected officials who say he’s unfit for the job. Stewart says he’s a “workhorse” who likes to do things in the background.
Stewart was elected in 2020 in an election that exceeded typical voter turnout with 60% of the vote against former Mayor Alvin Robinson and former Mayor, now Alderman Floyd Blackwell. If Stewart is impeached, Council President Blackwell will become mayor until the next election.
Stewart told the Post-Dispatch that the Bitcoin project is still a work in progress and is being fully funded by a wealthy business partner who did not want to be identified. Stewart says Cool Valley residents could get the money as soon as this quarter if he’s still mayor.
“If I’m in office, they’re not going to come out and study what I’m doing,” Stewart said. “They’re not just looking into Bitcoin, I think they’re looking into me a little bit as well.”
Asked for verification, Stewart sent the Post-Dispatch copy-and-paste emails without information from the senders about the partnership with the university. When the Post-Dispatch contacted one of the program’s directors at the University of Pennsylvania research center cited in Stewart’s email,
The mayor did not react when they were informed about it by “Postdispatch”.
However, city aldermen say bitcoin is the least of their worries.
In July, the council voted to force Stewart to return his city car, a high-mileage vintage police car they claim he uses for personal reasons, saying he failed to show what city business he was conducting when using the vehicle.
The council also voted in favor of terminating the mayor’s gas card, noting that the heads of the municipality should not park their cars at their homes overnight.
Stewart said he has yet to give up the vehicle because he believes it is “unconstitutional” and violates other city ordinances. He also says he only used the car for city errands. He did not specify by which decree.
Mathew says Stewart failed to make sure the city clerk followed through on his commitment to submit an official city budget for the past two years. Usually, the annual budget is voted on after discussion between the mayor and council.
Stewart says the seniors won’t meet him.
State law requires the city to submit a budget to several state agencies, including the state auditor, showing the city’s annual plan for projected revenues and expenses.
Records show the state auditor’s office received a financial report from the city of Cool Valley in June for the 2021 fiscal year, which ends in 2021. The document includes actual revenues and expenditures for fiscal year 2021 and proposals for fiscal year 2022. However, Mathew says no budget has been brought up for council consideration in the past two years.
Stewart did not provide any of the city’s bank statements to the Post-Dispatch, but sent an Excel spreadsheet showing the city has a balance of more than $500,000.
Public records requests for budget documents to the Cool Valley City Clerk’s Office went unanswered and unacknowledged. The previous mayor “abruptly resigned” in November and failed to share account passwords, office keys and financial records, according to the impeachment document.
The alderman alleges that Stewart, appointed as the city’s chief law enforcement officer, failed to make sure the clerk fulfilled his duties and that the city complied with state law.
Stewart grew up in North St. Louis County, attended the John Burroughs School, and later graduated from Miami University. He told the Post-Dispatch that he worked for a Grammy Award-winning music production company, a crypto-software company in California and helped start a company based in Cool Valley that he says helps clean up the oceans. Stewart said the company made millions.
The company, PL28, dissolved in 2021, and state records show it was worth less than $30,000 when the company filed its LLC documents in 2017.
Now Stewart says he is 100% committed to being mayor full-time. Although he admits his critics are right that he could be more visible in the community. But he claims to be a good mayor. All of the city’s bank accounts are in good standing, he said.
“We have to take care of a lot of things, 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 Alderwoman Earline Jones Collins. . “I’ll be so happy when we can move on from all this drama.”