By Holly Matkin and Sandy Malone
St. Louis, MO – Less than two weeks after she announced she would resign as of June 1, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner abruptly submitted her resignation effective immediately.
The embattled chief prosecutor, the city’s first African American to be elected to that position, announced on May 16 that she was done, KTVI reported.
Gardner’s office put out a statement about her departure and said that the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office would step in to handle priority cases until her replacement is named.
However, that decision lies in the hands of Missouri Governor Mike Parson and the presiding judge, KTVI reported.
“The Circuit Attorney has worked with St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell and his office to ensure a comprehensive transition plan is in place to handle cases that prioritizes public safety,” the statement read.
“Effective immediately, Kimberly M. Gardner will end her service as the City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney,” the statement continued. “Ms. Gardner has been committed to serving the people of the City of St. Louis and has done all she can to ensure a smooth transition. Further inquiries about ongoing cases can be directed to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.”
Chris King, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, said he hadn’t been aware that Gardner planned to resign early, KTVI reported.
However, he said he knew that Bell, Gardner, and the presiding judge had been in talks to get the details of the transition ironed out.
King said the county prosecutor’s office can act as a transition team until the governor appoints a replacement, KTVI reported.
He said the biggest priority would be reopening the city’s warrant office.
“Our goal is to assess the level of need. I think we all understand that we’re in a crisis,” King said. “Our goal is to assess the level of crisis, to update the governor and, of course, the public on what the level of crisis is, how many cases need to be charged. We really want to get an open warrant office in the City of St. Louis, and I know that’s what the police want.”
Gardner, who has been accused by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey of willfully neglecting the duties of her office, notified Missouri Governor Mike Parson in a letter on May 4 of her intent to resign.
She noted in her letter that voters elected her office twice and that she has been committed making “the City of St. Louis safer and fairer.”
“Unfortunately, since the time I took office, as the first Black, female prosecutor in the State, people outside of the city have targeted me and, to advance their goals, have also targeted the fundamental rights of the city’s voters,” the 47-year-old prosecutor lamented.
“Since day one of my tenure as Circuit Attorney, I have experienced attacks on my reforms, on my judgement, on my integrity, on my prosecutorial discretion, on my responsibility to direct the limited resources of this office and more,” Gardner wrote.
She then floated the idea that those who disagree with her want to sabotage her office.
“Some of these attacks seem designed to stop the office from functioning, at the expense of public safety,” Gardner alleged. “There is no sign that the onslaught would stop for as long as I am in the office.”
“I can absorb those attacks, and I have,” she continued. “But I can neither enable nor allow the outright disenfranchisement of the people of the City of St Louis, nor can I allow these outsiders to effectively shut down our important work.”
Gardner said she would “continue to fight tirelessly” if it wasn’t for those two issues.
The announcement came just days after a judge determined there is sufficient evidence that Gardner willfully neglected the duties of her office to proceed with seven of the 10 counts pending against her, KMOV reported.
She is also facing two separate contempt of court proceedings after her office failed to show up for two scheduled trials last month.
One case involved a shooting that injured an 11-year-old girl, KMOV reported.
The other involved a murder.
A judge opted not to hold Gardner in contempt on the no-show on the murder trial, but a judge did determine there was enough evidence in the other case to indicate the circuit attorney’s office disrespected the judicial process, KMOV reported.
A special prosecutor was appointed in that matter on May 3.
At least six assistant circuit attorneys and one chief trial assistant have recently resigned from Gardner’s office amid the chaos, KMOV reported.