Missouri Lawmakers Raise Concerns about Ethics Commission

Mar 16, 2018

Credit David Shane / Flickr

Some Missouri lawmakers on Thursday raised concerns that Republican Gov. Eric Greitens now has the power to appoint new members to a state ethics panel that's currently reviewing a complaint against him.

The six-member Missouri Ethics Commission will lack a quorum after Thursday, when three members' terms expired.

That will leave it up to Greitens to pick their replacements, who will then be responsible for reviewing a pending ethics complaint against him. Greitens also could leave the seats vacant, effectively blocking the commission from taking any action. Complaints are automatically tossed out after 90 days.

"They won't even be able to do their job because the person who's accused of the ethics violation has to appoint someone for them to do their job," Republican Sen. Bob Dixon told colleagues on the Senate floor Thursday. "Now that is a no-brainer."

Greitens' spokesman, Parker Briden, said the office anticipates that "all of our appointments will be made before the MEC's next meeting" on April 25. Briden said they're waiting on nominations from party committees.

The governor already faces troubles on multiple fronts. He was indicted earlier this year by a St. Louis grand jury on an invasion of privacy charge for allegedly taking a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom he has acknowledged having an extramarital affair. The grand jury investigation is ongoing and appears to have broadened beyond that particular incident.

A Missouri House panel is also investigating allegations against the governor.

Dixon said even if Greitens picks new members of the ethics panel, that could lead to a "constitutional crisis."

Former state Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple filed the complaint against the governor, which alleges he falsely reported how his campaign obtained a donor list from a charity he founded and failed to disclose that it also got the charity's email list.

Temple is asking the ethics commission to refer the case against Greitens to a prosecutor and demand that his campaign pay a fine. An attorney for Greitens' campaign called it "a spurious complaint" that should be dismissed.

This is not the first time Greitens' appointment powers have raised concern among lawmakers.

Both Republican and Democratic senators have criticized the governor for repeatedly stacking boards and commissions with his appointees to enact policy or leadership changes.

Most notably, Greitens last year stacked the State Board of Education with his appointees in order to oust the former education commissioner. Greitens withdrew one appointee after he signaled that he wouldn't vote to fire the commissioner.

"Can you imagine the verbal arm twisting of the person who he would appoint to the ethics commission?" Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf asked on the Senate floor Thursday.