Thursday, November 30

St. Louis Alderman John Collins-Muhammad resigns | Politics

ST. LOUIS  — John Collins-Muhammad on Wednesday abruptly announced his resignation from the Board of Aldermen, offering no reason for his decision, but asking for forgiveness for “my shortcomings and my mistakes.” 

Collins-Muhammad, who was reelected last April to a second term from the 21st Ward, said he was quitting the board in an email to Aldermanic President Lewis Reed.

“The weeks ahead will be tough,” Collins-Muhammad said in the email, which he shared on social media. “I ask for continued prayers for myself and my family.”

He also apologized to his family and constituents and said “I take full responsibility” for his mistakes. He did not elaborate.

A source familiar with the situation said Collins-Muhammad is under investigation for possible bribery.

Collins-Muhammad did not respond to a request for comment about his resignation.

In his resignation email, Collins-Muhammad, 30, said it would take effect Thursday. 

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His resignation was sudden. Just Tuesday, a new lawsuit listed him as one of four aldermen challenging a city charter amendment voters approved in April. And in February, he held a reelection fundraiser for his seat, according to state campaign filings. 

He seemed to have good ties with the city’s political power structure. Less than a month ago, Collins-Muhammad led a ceremony renaming a portion of Natural Bridge Avenue in north St. Louis in honor of longtime former Congressman William Lacy Clay. Now a lobbyist, Clay also donated to his reelection campaign on the day of the February fundraiser. 

A Reed ally who worked for the aldermanic president’s 2019 reelection campaign, Collins-Muhammad was handling a major piece of legislation that would revamp the board’s staffing.

Reed and Collins-Muhammad have said the bill is needed before a voter-approved ward reduction measure that will cut the number of wards and aldermen by half takes effect next year. The bill, one of the board’s main priorities, would add paid staffers to help aldermen handle twice the number of constituents while hiring extra clerks and other staffers for the full board.

Collins-Muhammad was critical of the ward reduction measure, claiming it would hurt Black representation on the board and sponsoring legislation attempting to reverse it.

Reed in a text message on Wednesday said he has no additional information from Collins-Muhammad about his resignation “beyond the open letter he released.” Asked if his office wanted to say anything further about the resignation, Reed texted “not at this time.”

Controversial record

The young alderman sometimes ran into trouble. In 2017, he was arrested in Florissant for driving with a suspended license and spent the night in jail in Jennings on an outstanding warrant from a 2016 case in which he was ticketed for driving with a revoked license and failed to appear in court.

Last year, he posted and later deleted a threat on Twitter in defense of Alderman Joe Vaccaro: “@Aldermanjoe is my friend. If you come for him, Know that I (WE) are coming for you. Touch him, I’m ravaging your whole community/ward.”

He claimed his Twitter account was hacked. The social media company later said there was no sign his account had been tampered with. 

In October, the Missouri Ethics Commission sued him for his failure to pay a $930 campaign finance violation fine.

In 2020, Collins-Muhammad sponsored a tax abatement measure for a new gas station on Von Phul Street property owned by Mohammed Almuttan, who was one of 35 people swept up in a 2017 cigarette and synthetic marijuana trafficking sting. The city’s development office had recommended the abatement in August 2020, but as the aldermanic bill neared a final approval, Collins-Muhammad set it aside, killing it.

Last year, he sponsored the measure again. But when it reached committee, Collins-Muhammad said there was no need for a vote because he was working on a larger tax abatement district for his ward. The bill for Almuttan’s tax abatement died again.

The U.S. Attorney’s office last month made a motion to dismiss all but one charge against Almuttan in the 2017 case, dropping counts of money laundering and a conspiracy to distribute controlled substance. A charge for conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes is the last pending count against Almuttan.

An attorney for Almuttan couldn’t immediately be reached. 

Third resignation this year

Collins-Muhammad, whose ward covers the north St. Louis neighborhoods between O’Fallon Park and Fairground Park, is the third alderman to quit the board this year ahead of a plan to cut the number of wards and aldermen in half that goes into effect next April.

Heather Navarro resigned as 28th Ward alderman in January to take a job with the Midwest Climate Collaborative at Washington University. Sarah Wood Martin quit as the 11th Ward alderman in April, saying the passage of conflict-of-interest language in Proposition R made it impossible to continue her work as a registered lobbyist at the Missouri Capitol.

A special election for Collins-Muhammad’s seat will likely be held Aug. 2. 

Updated at 5:41 p.m. Wednesday, May 11.

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