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Clay's divorce filing prompts messy back and forth

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 5, 2009 - Political divorces can be messy, public, and sometimes produce political fallout.

Just ask U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., who had a high-profile divorce in the early 1990s or  U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Strafford, who obtained a divorce and remarried a few years ago. Most recently, state Auditor Susan Montee, a Democrat, obtained a divorce in low-profile proceedings within a year of her taking office.

Now, it's the marriage of U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, who filed for divorce last week. And apparently his decision -- first reported by Post-Dispatch columnist Deb Peterson -- was a surprise to the congressman's wife of 17 years, Ivie Clay.

On Tuesday, the congressman and his wife both issued statements that reacted, in part, to the court sealing of his divorce file after Post-Dispatch reporter Jake Wagman had unsuccessfully sought to review it.

Here's part of the statement sent out by Ivie Clay's lawyer, on her behalf:

“I and my children are devastated and embarrassed that my husband let us find out from the children’s friends and the media that he had filed for divorce, and mostly that he still has not contacted our children. I would have wanted to prepare the children.

"I have been a loving, supportive wife throughout our 17-year marriage. I have raised the children and held down the fort so that my husband could work 4 days a week, first in Jefferson City and now in Washington, DC, travel overseas, and do everything required to fulfill the duties of his elected office – all while working my own full-time job. I want to thank the public for their phone calls, e-mails, cards and other expressions of love and concern..."

Her lawyer, Susan Hais, also complained that "the file was sealed -- not through the procedure mandated by the case law and rules of court of this state -- but by the intercession of the Circuit Clerk of the City, taking it upon himself to affirmatively contact one party in this case -- Mr. Clay's attorney -- to warn him and coach him, apparently, concerning the sealing of the file, in an improper ex parte manner, to the detriment of Mrs. Clay, the press, and the public. Mrs. Clay was then confronted with the fait accompli..."

Here's the subsequent statement from the congressman:

“This is a time of great sadness for my family and me. My wife and I have been discussing this situation for a number of months and this action should not have come as a surprise to anyone.

Of course, my first concern is for our children, whom I love dearly, and for their peace & privacy. I will continue to be a devoted father to them, and I hope that the public will understand that this is a difficult, private family matter that will hopefully be resolved amicable and swiftly by all parties.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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