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Government, Politics & Issues
Gov. Eric Greitens announced in late May that he would resign after facing months of political and legal scandals.The saga started in January, when KMOV released a recording of a woman saying Greitens took a compromising photo of her during a sexual encounter and threatened to blackmail her.A St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens in February on felony invasion of privacy. The woman testified to lawmakers that Greitens sexually and physically abused her, spurring bipartisan calls for his resignation or impeachment.The invasion of privacy charge was eventually dropped by St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office following a series of prosecutorial missteps before the trial began. Greitens was also accused of illegally obtaining a donor list from the veterans non-profit he co-founded with his political campaign, but that charge, too, was dismissed as part a deal that led to his resignation as governor.

Missouri Ethics Commission in limbo without a quorum

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File Photo |Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Gov. Eric Greitens greets guests at his residence after being sworn in on Jan. 9, 2017.

The Missouri Ethics Commission currently has three members, which is not enough to decide complaints filed against elected officeholders or candidates for public office.

The commission lost half its members last week when their terms expired, and Gov. Eric Greitens has yet to fill them. James Klahr, the commission’s executive director, said it can still carry out some duties.

“Before this particular group ceased to be a quorum, they did provide authority for staff to settle certain matters that had already been referred to staff for civil action,” he said.

And while the ethics commission can still investigate complaints, it cannot vote on any potential sanctions until it has at least four members.

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Credit Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio
James Klahr, executive director of the Missouri Ethics Commission

“We would not be able to take those before the commission unless and until we have a quorum of the commissioners,” Klahr said.

Meanwhile, some state senators have voiced concerns that Greitens will be choosing new commissioners who will then decide upon an ethics complaint that’s been filed against him. The complaint centers on a list of campaign donors from a nonprofit group created by Greitens before he became governor. The full Senate has to confirm the potential new appointees.

 

Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, went so far as to call the situation a constitutional crisis while speaking on the Senate floor last week. He and fellow Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, based their complaints on Greitens stacking the state education board and housing development commission with loyalists who voted his way on housing tax credits and on firing former education commissioner Margie Vandeven.

But Klahr said he doesn’t think that’ll happen this time.

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Credit Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield.

 “The (ethics) commission is really not a policy-making body,” he said. “I don’t know a lot about the details of what the board of education does or what the MHDC does, but I know that those are more in the realm of policy-making types of bodies.”

Klahr also said there’s been no pressure from the governor’s office to act on any specific issues supported by Greitens. He added that they do expect the quorum to be restored before the ethics commission’s next meeting on April 25.

Dixon and Schaaf both suggested that it would be in Greitens’ interest to not appoint anyone to fill the vacancies in time to investigate the complaint against him. But even if the governor fills them, Senate leaders aren’t certain there’s enough time to conduct background checks and other required procedures.

“We would hope our background checks would be judicious and timely,” said Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin. “We hope that it’s not postponed any longer than necessary, but if I have to call special meetings to get this done quickly, I’m happy to do that.”

The governor’s office has not responded to a request for comment about the commission vacancies.

Follow Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

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