COOL VALLEY — Three years ago, Mayor Jayson Stewart made a campaign promise to give $1,000 in Bitcoin to every resident of this small North St. Louis County municipality.
Now, an unfulfilled promise, impeachment awaits him.
Aldermen are trying to remove him from office, saying he misused his city car and gas card, failed to prepare the city budget or failed to fulfill his duties.
“I personally like the guy. He’s just not a good leader,” said Cool Valley Alderman Jermeine Matthew. “My focus and interest is to see that the residents of Cool Valley are taken care of.”
Stewart told the Post-Dispatch that the hearing and investigation in the North County town of 1,000, bordered by Berkeley, Normandy, Ferguson and part of Interstate 70, is a fraud and an attempted power grab.
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“Their political agenda is hurting the city,” Stewart said. “If you want to get rid of me, beat me fairly. Beat me in the election. Find something I’m really doing wrong.”
An impeachment hearing is set for Wednesday at 6 p.m.; Current and former city staff members are expected to testify before the Board of Aldermen, which voted 3-1 to file the impeachment charge and hear the case.
The fight pits a prominent first-time mayor against elected officials who say he’s unfit for the job. Stewart says he’s a “business person” who likes things to be done in the background.
Stewart was elected in the 2020 election with twice the typical voter turnout, winning 60% of the vote against former Alderman Alvin Robinson and former Mayor – now Alderman – Floyd Blackwell. If Stewart is impeached, board chairman Blackwell will serve as mayor until the next election.
Stewart told the Post-Dispatch that the Bitcoin project is still ongoing and is being funded by a wealthy business partner who did not want to be fully identified. Stewart says Cool Valley residents could get the money early this quarter — if he’s still mayor.
“If I’m not on duty, they’re not going to come out and find out what I’m doing,” Stewart said. “They’re not just learning Bitcoin, I think they’re learning a little bit about me.”
When asked for verification, Stewart sent the Post-Dispatch copy-and-pasted emails about a collaboration with a university without the senders’ knowledge. When contacted by the Post-Dispatch, one of the program directors at the University of Pennsylvania research center cited in Stewart’s email said they are not currently involved in any projects with Stewart or the city of Cool Valley.
The mayor did not respond when contacted by the Post-Dispatch.
However, the city’s aldermen say Bitcoin is the least of their worries.
In July, the board voted to force Stewart to return a high-mileage vintage police car to the city car they claim he used for personal purposes, saying he did not show what city business he was conducting while using the car.
Aldermen also voted to cancel the mayor’s gas card and told city leaders not to park vehicles at their homes overnight.
Stewart said he still hasn’t given up on the car because he believes it is “unconstitutional” and violates other city laws. He also says that he only used the car for city work. He did not specify which decree.
Matthews 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. Typically, the annual budget is voted on after discussion between the mayor and the board.
Stewart says higher officials won’t meet with him.
State law requires a city to submit a budget that shows the city’s annual plan for projected revenue and expenditures to several state agencies, including the state auditor.
The state auditor’s office received a financial report from the city of Cool Valley in June for the fiscal year ending in 2021, records show. The document includes actual revenue and expenditures for fiscal year 2021 and proposals for fiscal year 2022. However, Matthews says the council has not been presented with a budget to discuss in the past two years.
Stewart did not provide the Post-Dispatch with any of the city’s bank accounts, but sent an Excel spreadsheet showing the city has a balance of more than $500,000.
Public records requests to the Cool Valley city clerk’s office for budget documents went unanswered and were not received. A previous city official “abruptly resigned” in November and failed to share account passwords, office keys and financial records, according to the impeachment document.
The aldermen allege that Stewart, who was appointed the city’s chief law enforcement officer, failed to make sure the officer was following his duties and that the city was in compliance with state law.
Stewart grew up in North St. Louis County, attended John Burroughs School, and later graduated from Miami University. He told the Post-Dispatch that the Grammy-winning music production company worked for a cryptocurrency-based software company in California and helped start a Cool Valley-based company he says helps clean up the oceans. Stewart said the company made millions.
The company, PL28, was dissolved in 2021, and state records show the company had less than $30,000 when it filed its LLC paperwork in 2017.
Now Stewart says he’s 100% committed to being mayor full-time. Although he admits that his critics are right, he could be more visible in the community. But he claims to be a good mayor. According to him, all bank accounts of the city are in good condition.
“We have to take care of a lot of things, our streets, our safety, our neighborhoods, but you can’t do anything if you don’t know where your money is,” said Cool Valley Alderwoman Erline Jones Collins. “I’ll be glad when we can move on from all this drama.”