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Missouri Senate ethics panel receives complaint about Sen. Nieves

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 10, 2011 - Three critics of state Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, have filed a formal complaint about his behavior with the state Senate's Committee on Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics.

The three retired teachers -- residents of Nieves' 26th District -- earlier had complained in the Washington Missourian newspaper about a combative meeting they had with the senator about a month ago in the state Capitol.

During that meeting, Nieves had taken issue with an earlier letter to editor written by retired teacher Tom Smith, who is among the complainants, along with Lloyd Klinedinst and Frank Rogan. According to the three, Nieves shouted expletives and was abusive as he made clear his objections to Smith. (Click here and here and here to read their published accounts of the meeting.)

Nieves has countered with complaints on Facebook and on his radio show. He contends that he believed Smith's earlier letter put Nieves' family at risk. Smith's letter had highlighted Nieves' planned attendance at a conservative gathering in Cincinnati. Nieves' social-media comments have generated a flurry of traffic on progressive blog sites for weeks and prompted a critical editorial Wednesday in the Post-Dispatch.

Last year, Nieves was embroiled in a legal dispute, subsequently resolved, involving accusations that he had used a gun to threaten the aide of a rival candidate in the August Republican primary. 

The Senate committee's memberswho will review the complaint are: Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter; Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles; Bob Dixon, R-Springfield; Jack Goodman, R-Mt. Vernon;  Brad Lager, R-Savannah; Jolie Justus, D- Kansas City, and Tim Green, D-Spanish Lake.

By coincidence, the dispute comes as a special commission, appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, is drawing up new boundaries for the Senate's 34 districts. Nieves was among several Republicans who spoke at the commission's hearing last month at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. At issue are proposals by some commissioners to shift a Senate district out of the St. Louis area and move it to faster-growing southwest Missouri.

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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