By Joe Mueller
(The Center Square) – Kim Gardner resigned from her post as St. Louis circuit attorney late Thursday afternoon after months of criticism and legal action to remove her from office.
In a two-page letter to Republican Gov. Mike Parson posted to social media, Gardner, a Democrat, wrote “it is with a heavy heart but steadfast resolve that I am resigning my position as your Circuit Attorney, effective June 1.”
Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey called for Gardner to resign in February or be legally removed from office. Earlier this week, the judge in Bailey’s quo warranto case against Gardner overruled her motion to dismiss requests for documents and depositions of city officials. On Wednesday, Bailey revealed a subpoena to obtain documentation showing Gardner was enrolled in nursing classes at St. Louis University.
“There is absolutely no reason for the Circuit Attorney to remain in office until June 1,” Bailey posted on social media. “We remain undeterred with our legal quest to forcibly remove her from office. Every day she remains puts the City of St. Louis in more danger. How many victims will there be between now and June 1? How many defendants will have their constitutional rights violated? How many cases will continue to go unprosecuted?”
In Thursday’s letter to Parson, Gardner said as the first Black, female prosecutor in the state, people outside of St. Louis targeted her to advance their goals and infringe on the rights of the city’s voters.
“I can absorb those attacks, and I have,” Gardner wrote. “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 under her leadership the office “made tremendous strides in redefining public safety.” A St. Louis circuit judge ordered a hearing for late May concerning a contempt charge against Gardner.
Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe said Gardner’s resignation is a major step forward for “restoring the rule of law in St. Louis.”
“The resignation is long overdue,” Kehoe said in a statement. “Further, Kim Gardner should never run for this office again.”
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones stated Gardner should “do some soul-searching” in February about whether to continue.
“No one wanted wanted to see the Circuit Attorney’s Office fail, and my administration has reached out consistently to the Office to offer assistance,” Jones posted on social media. “We are hopeful that the governor will work with local leaders to appoint a successor who reflects the values of communities across St. Louis.”
The resignation came hours after her office announced James Heitman, an assistant circuit attorney, died in an automobile accident on Wednesday night.
This story is developing and may be updated.
Joe Mueller covers Missouri for The Center Square. After seven years of reporting for daily newspapers in Illinois and Missouri, he spent the next 30 years in public relations serving non-profit organizations and as a strategic communications consultant.
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